Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 181, Issue 1–4, pp 281–296 | Cite as

Biodegradation of PAHs and PCBs in Soils and Sludges



Results from a multi-year, pilot-scale land treatment project for PAHs and PCBs biodegradation were evaluated. A mathematical model, capable of describing sorption, sequestration, and biodegradation in soil/water systems, is applied to interpret the efficacy of a sequential active–passive biotreatment process of organic chemicals on remediation sites. To account for the recalcitrance of PAHs and PCBs in soils and sludges during long-term biotreatment, this model comprises a kinetic equation for organic chemical intraparticle sequestration process. Model responses were verified by comparison to measurements of biodegradation of PAHs and PCBs in land treatment units; a favorable match was found between them. Model simulations were performed to predict on-going biodegradation behavior of PAHs and PCBs in land treatment units. Simulation results indicate that complete biostabilization will be achieved when the concentration of reversibly sorbed chemical (SRA) reduces to undetectable levels, with a certain amount of irreversibly sequestrated residual chemical (SIA) remaining within the soil particle solid phase. The residual fraction (SIA) tends to lose its original chemical and biological activity, and hence, is much less available, toxic, and mobile than the “free” compounds. Therefore, little or no PAHs and PCBs will leach from the treatment site and constitutes no threat to human health or the environment. Biotreatment of PAHs and PCBs can be terminated accordingly. Results from the pilot-scale testing data and model calculations also suggest that a significant fraction (10–30%) of high-molecular-weight PAHs and PCBs could be sequestrated and become unavailable for biodegradation. Bioavailability (large Kd, i.e., slow desorption rate) is the key factor limiting the PAHs degradation. However, both bioavailability and bioactivity (K in Monod kinetics, i.e., number of microbes, nutrients, and electron acceptor, etc.) regulate PCBs biodegradation. The sequential active–passive biotreatment can be a cost-effective approach for remediation of highly hydrophobic organic contaminants. The mathematical model proposed here would be useful in the design and operation of such organic chemical biodegradation processes on remediation sites.


PAHs PCBs biodegradation land treatment mathematical model and application intraparticle 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ling Liu
    • 1
  • James A. Tindall
    • 2
  • Michael J. Friedel
    • 3
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Hydrology – Water Resources and Hydraulic EngineeringHohai UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.National Research ProgramUS Geological SurveyDenverUSA
  3. 3.US Geological Survey, WRDDenverUSA

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