• vadose zone;
  • NAPLs;
  • lithology;
  • biogeochemical processes;
  • water level fluctuation;
  • petrochemical plant


Contamination characteristics of petroleum hydrocarbons in soils and the underlying unsaturated subsurface were analysed by investigating and sampling at different depth of five boreholes named SH1 through SH5 at a typical petrochemical site, North China. Topsoil volatile organic gas measurement revealed that SH-3 was the center of one pollution plume. Soil samples analysis showed that aromatic hydrocarbons and chlorinated hydrocarbons were major pollutants. Their maximum concentration was found at 6.5 and 14.6 m of SH-2, 13 m of SH-5, and 18.5 m of SH-3. These pollutants are mostly accumulated on the interface between two different lithological layers, especially between the sand and silt clay layers. Denitrifying and iron reducing were main biogeochemical processes in this site. Under the influence of groundwater level fluctuation, free NAPLs passed through the boundary and dissolved into the lower groundwater. Knowledge of these associations between contaminant distributions and affecting factors could have implications for soil and groundwater pollution prevention and control. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.