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Chemosphere. 2003 Sep;52(10):1717-26.

Physicochemical soil parameters affecting sequestration and mycobacterial biodegradation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in soil.

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Gas Technology Institute, 1700 South Mt. Prospect Road, Des Plaines, IL 60018, USA.


Six soils, obtained from grasslands and wooded areas in Northeastern Illinois, were physicochemically characterized. Measured parameters included total organic carbon (TOC) content, contents of humic acid, fulvic acid and humin, pore volume and pore size distribution, and chemical makeup of soil organic matter (determined using solid-state 13C-NMR). Moistened, gamma-sterilized soils were spiked with 200 ppm of either phenanthrene or pyrene (including 14C label); following 0, 40, or 120 days of aging, the contaminant-spiked soils were then inoculated with Mycobacterium austroafricanum strain GTI-23, and evolution of 14CO2 was assessed over a 28-day period. Results for both phenanthrene and pyrene indicated that increased contact time led to increased sequestration and reduced biodegradation, and that TOC content was the most important parameter governing these processes. One soil, although only tested with phenanthrene, showed significantly lower-than-expected sequestration (higher-than-expected mineralization) after 40 days of aging, despite a very high TOC value (>24%). Because the level of sequestration in this soil was proportional to the others after 120 days of aging, this implies some difference in the temporal progression of sequestration in this soil, although not in its final result. The primary distinguishing feature of this soil was its considerably elevated fulvic acid content. Further experiments showed that addition of exogenous fulvic acid to a soil with very low endogenous humic acids/fulvic acids content greatly enhanced pyrene mineralization by M. austroafricanum. Extractabilities of 13 three- to six-ring coal tar PAHs in n-butanol from the six soils after 120 days of sequestration were strongly TOC-dependent; however, there was no discernible correlation between n-butanol extractability and mycobacterial PAH mineralization.

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