• Sorption;
  • Sediment remediation;
  • Granular activated carbon;
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons


Addition of activated carbon (AC) to sediments has been proposed as a method to reduce ecotoxicological risks of sediment-bound contaminants. The present study explores the effectiveness of granular AC (GAC) in extracting polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) from highly contaminated sediments. Four candidate GAC materials were screened in terms of PAH extraction efficiency using single-step 24-h GAC extractions, with traditional 24-h Tenax extraction as a reference. Subsequently, sorption of native PAHs to the best performing GAC 1240W (0.45–1.70 mm) was studied for sediment only and for GAC–sediment mixtures at different GAC–sediment weight ratios, using 76-µm polyoxymethylene (POM) passive samplers. Granular AC sorption parameters for PAHs were determined by subtracting the contribution of PAH sorption to sediment from PAH sorption to the GAC–sediment mixture. It appears that the binding of PAHs and the effectiveness of GAC to reduce sediment porewater concentrations were highly dependent on the GAC–sediment mixing ratio and hydrophobicity of the PAH. Despite the considerable fouling of GAC by organic matter and oil, 50 to 90% of the most available PAH was extracted by the GAC during a 28-d contact time, at a dose as low as 4%, which also is a feasible dose in field-scale applications aimed at cleaning the sediment by GAC addition and removal. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2013;32:304–311. © 2012 SETAC