Analytically well-characterized soils from four different former manufactured gas plants (MGP) sites contaminated by coal tars were used in tests of extensive biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in stirred reactors. In all cases, the extent of biodegradation was limited to 80-100% for 2- and 3-ring PAHs, 40-70% for 4-ring PAHs, and below 20% for 5- and 6-ring PAHs. The capacities to transfer pollutants to water were compared for leachates from soils that had or had not undergone biological treatment. Leachate analysis involved determination of PAHs and bacterial tests of acute toxicity (Microtox) and genotoxicity (SOS Chromotest). For some untreated soils, PAH leaching was observed, and positive responses to the Microtox test were well correlated to the concentrations of naphthalene and phenanthrene. Biologically treated soils had lost all capacities for leaching as concluded from PAH determinations and responses to the Microtox test. All soil leachates were devoid of genotoxic effect, in accordance with the low concentrations observed of mutagenic PAHs. The results of this risk- based approach for assessment of MGP soils showed that pollutants remaining after biological treatment were unavailable for further biodegradation and that the extent of leaching had been reduced to the level that it did not represent a significant threat to groundwater.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry