Fate and transport of the surfactant linear alkylbenzenesulfonate in a sewage-contaminated aquifer Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/8g84mp29t

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  • Linear alkylbenzenesulfonate (LAS) is the most widely used anionic surfactant in commercial detergent formulations. The environmental fate of LAS is of interest because of its disposal to wastewater treatment facilities and subsequent occurrence as a micropollutant in surface waters and groundwater. While LAS fate in wastewater treatment systems and surface waters is well-documented, few studies describe LAS fate in groundwater. This work investigates the transport and biodegradation of LAS in sewage-contaminated groundwater using natural-gradient pulsed and continuous field tracer tests and laboratory column experiments. An "in-vial" disk elution technique that couples solid phase extraction disk elution of LAS as tetrabutylammonium ion pairs with injection-port derivatization was developed for the determination of LAS in groundwater. Pulsed tracer tests then were conducted in an aerobic (~9 mg/L dissolved oxygen) uncontaminated zone, and a moderately aerobic (~1 mg/L dissolved oxygen), sewage-contaminated zone. A continuous injection test also was conducted in the sewage-contaminated zone. Chromatographic separation of the surfactant mixture was observed and attributed to the greater retardation of the longer alkyl chain homologs during transport. In the sewage-contaminated groundwater, biodegradation preferentially removed the longer alkyl chain homologs and external isomers resulting in LAS mixtures that were enriched in the more mobile and biologically-resistant components. LAS mass removal coincided with a decrease in dissolved oxygen concentrations, the appearance of LAS metabolites, and an increase in the number of free-living bacteria. The composition of the LAS mixture changed in the continuous field and column experiments and biodegradation rates increased as dissolved oxygen concentration increased. Mass removal rates were generally 2-3 times greater in the column experiments than in the field for similar dissolved oxygen concentrations. Rate constants for the continuous and pulsed tests conducted in the field were comparable indicating that increased exposure time of the aquifer sediments to the LAS did not increase biodegradation rates.
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