Shallow, anaerobic groundwater near a former manufactured-gas plant (MGP) in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, contains mono- and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (MAHs and PAHs, respectively). Between 1994 and 1997, a combination of field, laboratory, and numerical-flow and transport-model investigations were made to assess natural attenuation processes affecting MAH and PAH distributions. This assessment included determination of adsorption coefficients (K(ad)) and first-order biodegradation rate constants (K(bio)) using aquifer material from the MGP site and adjacent properties. Naphthalene adsorption (K(ad) = 1.35 x 10-7 m3/mg) to aquifer sediments was higher than toluene adsorption (K(ad) = 9.34 x 10-10 m3/mg), suggesting preferential toluene transport relative to naphthalene. However, toluene and benzene distributions measured in January 1994 were smaller than the naphthalene distribution. This scenario can be explained, in part, by the differences between biodegradation rates of the compounds. Aerobic first-order rate constants of 14C-toluene, 14C-benzene, and 14C-naphthalene degradation were similar (-0.84, -0.03, and 0.88 day-1, respectively), but anaerobic rate constants were higher for toluene and benzene (-0.002 and -0.00014 day-1, respectively) than for naphthalene (-0.000046 day-1). Both areal and cross-sectional numerical simulations were used to test the hypothesis suggested by these rate differences that MAH compounds will be contained relative to PAHs. Predictive simulations indicated that the distributions of toluene and benzene reach steady-state conditions before groundwater flow lines discharge to an adjacent surface-water body, but do discharge low concentrations of naphthalene. Numerical predictions were 'audited' by measuring concentrations of naphthalene, toluene, and benzene at the site in early 1997. Measured naphthalene and toluene concentrations were substantially reduced and the areal extent of contamination smaller than was both observed in January 1994 and predicted for 1997. Measured 1997 benzene concentrations and distribution were shown to be relatively unchanged from those measured in 1994, and similar to predictions for 1997.The natural attenuation processes affecting mono- and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (MAHs and PAHs, respectively) distributions in groundwater near a former manufactured-gas plant in South Carolina, USA was evaluated. This assessment included determination of adsorption coefficients and first-order biodegradation rate constants. Detailed results obtained in the study are presented.
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Assessment of natural attenuation of aromatic hydrocarbons in groundwater near a former manufactured-gas plant, South Carolina, USA