A laboratory study of sediment and contaminant release during gas ebullition

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Significant quantities of gas are generated from labile organic matter in contaminated sediments. The implications for the gas generation and subsequent release of contaminants from sediments are unknown but may include enhanced direct transport such as pore water advection and diffusion. The behavior of gas in sediments and the resulting migration of a polyaromatic hydrocarbon, viz phenanthrene, were investigated in an experimental system with methane injection at the base of a sediment column. Hexane above the overlying water layer was used to trap any phenanthrene migrating out of the sediment layer. The rate of suspension of solid particulate matter from the sediment bed into the overlying water layer was also monitored. The experiments indicated that significant amounts of both solid particulate matter and contaminant can be released from a sediment bed by gas movement with the amount of release related to the volume of gas released. The effective mass transfer coefficient of gas bubble-facilitated contaminant release was estimated under field conditions, being around three orders of magnitude smaller than that of bioturbation. A thin sand-capping layer (2 cm) was found to dramatically reduce the amount of contaminant or particles released with the gas because it could prevent or at least reduce sediment suspension. Based on the experimental observations, gas bubble-facilitated contaminant transport pathways for both uncapped and capped systems were proposed. Sediment cores were sliced to obtain phenanthrene concentration. X-ray computed tomography (CT) was used to investigate the void space distribution in the sediment penetrated by gas bubbles. The results showed that gas bubble migration could redistribute the sediment void spaces and may facilitate pore water circulation in the sediment.

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Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (1995)

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