Fate of PAH compounds in two soil types: Influence of volatilization, abiotic loss and biological activity



The fate of 14 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds was evaluated with regard to interphase transfer potential and mechanisms of treatment in soil under unsaturated conditions. Volatilization and abiotic and biotic fate of the PAHs were determined using two soils not previously exposed to these compounds. Volatilization accounted for approximately 30 and 20% loss of naphthalene and 1-methylnaphthalene, respectively; for the remaining compounds, volatilization was negligible. Abiotic reactions accounted for approximately 2 to 20% of the reduction in concentration in solvent extracts for two- and three-ring PAH compounds; no statistically significant reduction was observed for PAH compounds containing greater than three aromatic rings. Biotic mechanisms were quantified as first-order rate constants corrected for volatilization and abiotic mechanisms. Half-life values increased from approximately 2 to 60 to more than 300 d for two-, three- and four- and five-ring PAH compounds, respectively. In general, biological degradation rates were not significantly different between the two soils. Information concerning interphase transfer potential and mechanisms of treatment provides the basis for a rational approach to remediation of soil contaminated with PAH compounds.