The goals of this study were to investigate the relative degradation rates of polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) in contaminated soil, and to assess whether persistent oxidation products are formed during their degradation. Samples were taken on five occasions during a pilot-scale bioslurry treatment of soil from a former gasworks site. More than 100 PACs were identified in the soil, including unsubstituted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkylated PAHs (alkyl-PAHs), heterocyclic PACs, and oxygenated PAHs (oxy-PAHs), such as ketones, quinones, and coumarins. During the treatment, the low molecular weight PAHs and heterocyclics were degraded faster than the high molecular weight compounds. The unsubstituted PAHs also appear to have degraded more quickly than the corresponding alkyl-PAHs and nitrogen-containing heterocyclics. No new oxidation products that were not present in the untreated soil were identified after the soil treatment. However, oxy-PAHs that were present in the untreated soil were generally degraded more slowly than the parent compounds, suggesting that they were formed during the treatment or that they are more persistent. Two oxidation products, 1-acenaphthenone and 4-oxapyrene-5-one, were found at significantly higher concentrations at the end of the study. Because oxy-PAHs can be acutely toxic, mutagenic, or carcinogenic, we suggest that this group of compounds should also be monitored during the treatment of PAH-contaminated soil.
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