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Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Dec 15;45(24):10567-74. doi: 10.1021/es202218p. Epub 2011 Nov 23.

Field-scale reduction of PCB bioavailability with activated carbon amendment to river sediments.

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Department of Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, Maryland 21250, United States.


Remediation of contaminated sediments remains a technological challenge because traditional approaches do not always achieve risk reduction goals for human health and ecosystem protection and can even be destructive for natural resources. Recent work has shown that uptake of persistent organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the food web is strongly influenced by the nature of contaminant binding, especially to black carbon surfaces in sediments. We demonstrate for the first time in a contaminated river that application of activated carbon to sediments in the field reduces biouptake of PCBs in benthic organisms. After treatment with activated carbon applied at a dose similar to the native organic carbon of sediment, bioaccumulation in freshwater oligochaete worms was reduced compared to preamendment conditions by 69 to 99%, and concentrations of PCBs in water at equilibrium with the sediment were reduced by greater than 93% at all treatment sites for up to three years of monitoring. By comparing measured reductions in bioaccumulation of tetra- and penta-chlorinated PCB congeners resulting from field application of activated carbon to a laboratory study where PCBs were preloaded onto activated carbon, it is evident that equilibrium sorption had not been achieved in the field. Although other remedies may be appropriate for some highly contaminated sites, we show through this pilot study that PCB exposure from moderately contaminated river sediments may be managed effectively through activated carbon amendment in sediments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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