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Environ Sci Technol. 2008 Apr 1;42(7):2575-81.

Volatilization and biodegradation of naphthalene in the vadose zone impacted by phytoremediation.

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Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA.


The combined remediation mechanisms of volatilization and biodegradation in the vadose zone were investigated for naphthalene remediation at a creosote-contaminated site where a poplar tree-based phytoremediation system has been installed. Concurrent field and laboratory experiments were conducted to study the transport and biodegradation of naphthalene in the vadose zone. Soil gas sampling showed that more than 90% of the naphthalene vapors were biodegraded aerobically within 5-10 cm above the water table during the summer months. Peak naphthalene soil gas concentrations were observed in the late summer, corresponding with peak naphthalene aqueous concentrations and the minimum saturated zone thickness. An analytical solution was developed for vapor transport where the diffusion coefficient and first-order biodegradation rate vary vertically in two discrete zones. First-order aerobic biodegradation rates in laboratory columns using unsaturated site soil ranged from 5 to 28 days(-1) with a mean rate of 11 days(-1). The observed naphthalene mass flux at the source (3.3-22 microg cm(-2) d(-1)) was enhanced by aerobic biodegradation and was greater than the mean observed flux in the abiotic control column and the maximum theoretical mass flux by factors of 7 and 28, respectively.

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