In situ sediment-porewater partitioning of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) measured in three cores from Boston Harbor, MA, has led us to suggest that only a fraction of the total measured sediment PAH concentration is available for equilibrium partitioning (AEP fraction). To test this, aqueous PAH concentrations were measured in laboratory desorption experiments using subsamples of the same Boston Harbor sediments. The observed concentrations were consistentwith what we predicted from the field-derived AEP values: Caqueous=(Csediment ?? AEP)/(foc ?? Koc) where foc is the fraction organic carbon in the sediment and Koc is the organic carbon normalized sediment-water partition coefficient. Equilibrium partitioning models based on the total measured sediment PAH concentrations overestimated the measured aqueous PAH concentrations by as much as 100 times in some cases. Only a small fraction of the sediment phenanthrene and pyrene concentrations (1-40%) appeared to be available for equilibrium partitioning. Both in situ and laboratory desorption aqueous polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations were consistent with equilibrium partitioning models and the assumption that 100% of these compounds was available for equilibrium partitioning. These results are particularly important to efforts to predict the environmental mobility and bioavailability of the PAHs.
Additional publication details
Comparison of the in situ and desprptipn sediment-water partitioning of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyls