Improved understanding of tributyltin sorption on natural and biochar-amended sediments



A poor understanding of tributyltin (TBT) sorption on sediments has hindered an accurate evaluation of its environmental fate. The present study determined TBT sorption by a freshwater sediment (BH) and a coastal marine sediment (TZ) as influenced by pH, salinity, and biochar (BC) amendment into TZ. The isotherms were essentially linear, with KOC values in the range of 104 to 105 L/kg. Tributyltin sorption at pH 3.56 and 8.00 occurred mainly via partitioning. It reached maxima at pH equal to its pKa (=6.25) because of added ion exchange. A salinity increase from 5 to 35 practical salinity units enhanced TBT sorption at pH 3.56 and 8.00 on TZ by approximately 30% and on BH by approximately 80%, ascribed to the salting-out effect that reduced the solubilities of tributyltin hydroxide (TBTOH) and tributyltin chloride (TBTCl). At pH 6.25, the same salinity increase reduced TBT sorption on TZ by approximately 20% but enhanced TBT sorption on BH by approximately 35%. This was attributed to the enhancing role of salting out and the reducing role of metal competition for ion exchange. Tributyltin was two orders of magnitude more effectively sorbed by BC than by total organic carbon of TZ, mainly because of the high level of surface area of the BC. Although BC affinity for TBT may be significantly diminished when present in TZ, it was considered to be the primary contributor to TBT sorption from water. Biochar may thus be used to immobilize TBT in sediment for potential remediation. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:2682–2687. © 2011 SETAC