Hydrologic and geochemical evidence were used to establish the long-term persistence of dichlorobenzene in ground water that has been contaminated from 50 years of rapid-infiltration sewage disposal. An extensive plume of dichlorobenzene extends more than 3,500 meters downgradient from the disposal beds, with concentrations of the combined isomers ranging from less than 0.01 to over 1.0 ??g/l. Based on estimates of maximum ground-water flow velocities, a minimum age of 20 years was established for the farthest downgradient zone of dichlorobenzene contamination. Branched-chained, alkylbenzenesulfonic acid surfactants, that were introduced into the ground water prior to 1966, occur along with dichlorobenzene in the downgradient part of the plume, further establish residence of the compounds in the aquifer for at least 20 years. Although dichlorobenzene can be biologically degraded under aerobic conditions, its persistence at this field site is attributed to the dynamics of the ground-water system. Denitrifying conditions, resulting from the degradation of organic compounds in the aquifer near the disposal beds, appear to have enhanced the persistence of dichlorobenzene, which is not degraded by anaerobic bacteria. Biological degradation of dichlorobenzene in the aerobic part of the plume downgradient from the source is probably limited by the paucity of a suitable organic-carbon substrate and the low concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the contaminated ground water.
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Dichlorobenzene in ground water: Evidence for long-term persistence