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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2015 Feb;22(4):3158-74. doi: 10.1007/s11356-014-3506-3. Epub 2014 Sep 21.

Constraints of propylene glycol degradation at low temperatures and saturated flow conditions.

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Institut für Geowissenschaften, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Burgweg 11, 07749, Jena, Germany,


During snowmelt, the infiltration of large amounts of propylene glycol (PG), the major compound of many aircraft deicing fluids, affects redox processes and poses a contamination risk for the groundwater. To gain a better understanding about the degradation of PG and the associated biogeochemical processes under these conditions, we conducted saturated soil column experiments at 4 °C. During two successive PG pulses, we monitored the effect of the runway deicer formate (FO) and changing redox conditions on PG degradation. Furthermore, we applied first-order and simplified Monod kinetics to describe PG and FO transport. The transport of 50 mg l(-1) PG showed three stages of microbial degradation, which were defined as lag phase, aerobic phase, and anaerobic phase. During the second pulse, lag effects diminished due to the already accomplished microbial adaption, and the initial degradation rate of PG increased. Degradation of PG was most efficient during aerobic conditions (aerobic phase), while the subsequent drop of the redox potential down to -300 mV decreased the degradation rate (anaerobic phase). Formate addition decreased the overall degradation of PG by 50 and 15 % during the first and second pulse, illustrating the inhibitory effect of FO on PG degradation. The concurrent increase of Fe(III), organic carbon, and the turbidity in the column effluent after PG and FO application suggest the combined export of Fe adsorbed to fragments of detached biofilm. Neither the first-order nor the simplified Monod model was able to reconstruct the dynamic breakthrough of 50 mg l(-1) PG. The breakthrough of 1,000 mg l(-1), however, was described reasonably well with first-order kinetics. At low temperature and high water saturation, the application of first-order degradation kinetics seems therefore appropriate to describe the transport of high concentrations of PG.

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