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Surfactant-Enhanced Desorption and Biodegradation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Contaminated Soil

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journal contribution
posted on 2010-10-01, 00:00 authored by Hongbo Zhu, Michael D. Aitken
We evaluated two nonionic surfactants, one hydrophobic (Brij 30) and one hydrophilic (C12E8), for their ability to enhance the biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in contaminated soil after it had been treated in an aerobic bioreactor. The effects of each surfactant were evaluated at doses corresponding to equilibrium aqueous-phase concentrations well above the surfactant’s critical micelle concentration (CMC), slightly above the CMC, and below the CMC. The concentrations of all 3- and 4-ring PAHs were significantly lower in the soil amended with Brij 30 at the two lower doses compared to controls, whereas removal of only the 3-ring PAHs was significantly enhanced at the highest Brij 30 dose. In contrast, C12E8 did not enhance PAH removal at any dose. In the absence of surfactant, <5% of any PAH desorbed from the soil over an 18 day period. Brij 30 addition at the lowest dose significantly increased the desorption of most PAHs, whereas the addition of C12E8 at the lowest dose actually decreased the desorption of all PAHs. These findings suggest that the effects of the two surfactants on PAH biodegradation could be explained by their effects on PAH bioavailability. Overall, this study demonstrates that the properties of the surfactant and its dose relative to the corresponding aqueous-phase concentration are important factors in designing systems for surfactant-enhanced bioremediation of PAH-contaminated soils in which PAH bioavailability is limited.