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Distribution and Transport of Coal Tar-derived PAHs in Fine-grained Residuum
Chemosphere (2007)
  • Vijay M. Vulava, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • Larry McKay, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • Steven G. Driese, Baylor University
  • Fu-Min Menn, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • Gary S. Sayler, University of Tennessee - Knoxville
We investigated the distribution and transport of coal tar-derived polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in fine-grained residuum and alluvial floodplain deposits that underlie a former manufactured gas plant. All 16 USEPA priority pollutant PAHs are present at this site and have penetrated the entire 4–5 m thickness of clayey sediments, which unconformably overly limestone bedrock. Concentrations of less hydrophobic PAHs (e.g., naphthalene, 0.011–384 mg kg−1) were about 10 times higher than those of highly hydrophobic PAHs (e.g., benzo[g, h, i]perylene −0.002 to 56.03 mg kg−1). Microscopic examination of thin-sections of the clay-rich sediments showed that fractures and rootholes, which can act as pathways for flow, occur throughout the profiles. Tarry residue was found coating some fractures and rootholes, indicating that coal tar was, in some cases, able to penetrate as an immiscible phase. However, in the vast majority of samples in which PAHs were detected, there was no detectable tar residue, suggesting that much of the transport occurred in the dissolved phase. Examination of thin-sections with an epifluorescent microscope indicated that PAHs, which fluoresce brightly when exposed to UV light, are distributed throughout the soil matrix, rather than being confined to fractures and rootholes. The widespread distribution of PAHs is most likely due to diffusion-controlled exchange between the fast-flow pathways in the fractures and rootholes and the relatively immobile water in the fine-grained matrix. This implies that fractures and rootholes can play a major role in controlling transport of highly hydrophobic compounds in fine-grained sediments, which would otherwise act as barriers to contaminant migration.
  • Former manufactured gas plant; Hydrophobic organic compounds; Dense non-aqueous liquid; Fluorescence; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; Coal tar
Publication Date
June, 2007
Citation Information
Vijay M. Vulava, Larry McKay, Steven G. Driese, Fu-Min Menn, et al.. "Distribution and Transport of Coal Tar-derived PAHs in Fine-grained Residuum" Chemosphere Vol. 68 Iss. 3 (2007)
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