Wastes from a wood preserving plant in Pensacola, Florida have contaminated the near-surface sand-and-gravel aquifer with creosote-derived compounds and pentachlorophenol. Contamination resulted from the discharge of plant waste waters to and subsequent seepage from unlined surface impoundments that were in direct hydraulic contact with the ground water. Two distinct phases resulted when the creosote and water mixed: a denser than water hydrocarbon phase that moved vertically downward, and an organic-rich aqueous phase that moved laterally with the ground-water flow. The aqueous phase is enriched in organic acids, phenolic compounds, single- and double-ring nitrogen, sulfur, and oxygen containing compounds, and single- and double-ring aromatic hydrocarbons. The ground water is devoid of dissolved O2, is 60-70% saturated with CH4 and contains H2S. Field analyses document a greater decrease in concentration of organic fatty acids, benzoic acid, phenol, 2-, 3-, 4-methylphenol, quinoline, isoquinoline, 1(2H)-quinolinone, and 2(1H)-isoquinolinone during downgradient movement in the aquifer than could be explained by dilution and/or dispersion. Laboratory microcosm studies have shown that within the study region, this effect can be attributed to microbial degradation to CH4 and CO2. A small but active methanogenic population was found on sediment materials taken from highly contaminated parts of the aquifer.
Additional publication details
Methanogenic biodegradation of creosote contaminants in natural and simulated ground-water ecosystems