Advection dominated transport of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in amended sediment caps

Philip T. Gidley, Seokjoon Kwon, Alexander Yakirevich, Victor S. Magar, Upal Ghosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Typical sand caps used for sediment remediation have little sorption capacity to retard the migration of hydrophobic contaminants such as PAHs that can be mobilized by significant groundwater flow. Laboratory column experiments were performed using contaminated sediments and capping materials from a creosote contaminated USEPA Superfund site. Azoic laboratory column experiments demonstrated rapid breakthrough of lower molecular weight PAHs when groundwater seepage was simulated through a column packed with coarse sand capping material. After eight pore volumes of flow, most PAHs measured showed at least 50% of initial source pore water concentrations at the surface of 65 cm capping material. PAH concentration in the cap solids was low and comparable to background levels typically seen in urban depositional sediment, but the pore water concentrations were high. Column experiments with a peat amendment delayed PAH breakthrough. The most dramatic result was observed for caps amended with activated carbon at a dose of 2% by dry weight. PAH concentrations in the pore water of the activated carbon amended caps were 3-4 orders of magnitude lower (0.04 ± 0.02 μg/L for pyrene) than concentrations in the pore water of the source sediments (26.2 ± 5.6 μg/L for pyrene) even after several hundred pore volumes of flow. Enhancing the sorption capacity of caps with activated carbon amendment even at a lower dose of 0.2% demonstrated a significant impact on contaminant retardation suggesting consideration of active capping for field sites prone to groundwater upwelling or where thin caps are desired to minimize change in bathymetry and impacts to aquatic habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5032-5039
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 May 2012


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