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Oxygen limitations and aging as explanations for the field persistence of naphthalene in coal tar-contaminated surface sediments

, : Oxygen limitations and aging as explanations for the field persistence of naphthalene in coal tar-contaminated surface sediments. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry 15(11): 1876-1882

Naphthalene has been transported approx. 400 m via groundwater flow from buried subsurface coal tar to an organic matter-rich seep area where the water emerges at the foot of a hill in a field study site. We have tested several hypotheses for explaining why naphthalene persists in seep sediments. In aerobic laboratory flask assays, conversion of 14C-naphthalene to 14CO-2 occurred and was not stimulated by amendments with vitamins or inorganic nutrients. Thus, neither toxicity nor nutrient limitation were the cause of naphthalene persistence. At the site, in situ sediment oxygen concentrations were below detection. Oxygen-limited naphthalene biodegradation was demonstrated both by measuring no conversion of 14C-naphthalene to 14CO-2 in samples of seep sediments prepared anaerobically and by measuring naphthalene loss from anaerobic nitrate-amended slurry-phase incubations of the sediment only after O-2 was added. However, when H-2O-2 was added as an O-2 source to site sediments in situ in a randomized block design, no discernible naphthalene loss occurred. The possibility that decreased bioavailability might contribute to naphthalene persistence was investigated by monitoring 14CO-2 evolved by microorganisms added to gamma-ray sterilized sediments that had been exposed under aseptic conditions to 14C-labeled naphthalene for periods ranging from 0 to 28 d. Resulting patterns in the extent and rate of naphthalene mineralization revealed an inverse relationship to the duration of contact with the sediment, but only when the mixed microbial inoculum had been enriched on aqueous-phase naphthalene. We conclude that oxygen limitation is the most probable cause for lack of naphthalene biodegradation at our field study site. However, diffusion or sorption reactions may also play a role.

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Accession: 002914192

DOI: 10.1002/etc.5620151104

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