Fugacity approach to evaluate the sediment-water diffusion of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

De-Gao Wang, Mehran Alaee, Jonathan Byer, Yong-Jun Liu, Chong-Guo Tian
Journal of Environmental Monitoring: JEM 2011, 13 (6): 1589-96
Diffusion is an important process for sediment-water exchange and plays a vital role in controlling water quality. Fugacity fraction (ff) was used to estimate the sediment-water diffusion of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) between seawater and surficial sediment. A total of 33 surface sediment and sea water samples were collected concurrently from the northeast coastal area in China and 25 PAHs were analyzed including the alkylated and chlorated PAHs. Fugacity fraction was calculated based on the PAH concentrations in water and sediment, octanol-water partition coefficient of PAHs, organic matter content in sediment, and density of sediment. The calculated results showed that ff increased with decreasing molecular weight of PAHs. The low molecular weight PAHs (2-3 rings) transferred from sediment to water and the sediment acted as a secondary source to the water. The medium molecular weight PAHs (4-5 rings) were close to the sediment-water equilibrium and the transfer tendency shifted between sediment and water. The high molecular weight PAHs (5-6 rings) transferred from water into sediment and the sediment acted as a sink. Soot carbon and the difference of PAH concentrations between sediment and water were found to be important factors affecting the sediment-water diffusion. This study provided new insight into the process of sediment-water diffusion, which has a great influence on the quality of water, especially in severely-polluted sediment areas.

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