Dissipation of PAHs in saturated, dredged sediments: A field trial

K. E. Smith, A. P. Schwab, M. K. Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Sediments dredged from navigable rivers often contain elevated concentrations of recalcitrant, potentially toxic organic compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The presence of these compounds often requires that the sediments be stored in fully contained disposal facilities. A 3-year field study was conducted at the Jones Island disposal facility in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to compare bioremediation of PAHs in contaminated dredged sediments in the absence of plants to phytoremediation with Salix nigra (black willow) (SX61), Spartina pectinata (prairie cord grass), Carex aquatalis (lake sedge), Lolium multiflorum (annual rye), and Scirpus fluviatilis (bulrush). Nine PAHs were detected initially in the sediments. Over the 3-year experiment, acenaphthene dissipation ranged from 94% to 100%, whereas anthracene, benzo[a]pyrene and indo[1,2,3-cd]pyrene generally had modest decreases in concentration (0-30% decrease). The remaining five PAHs ranged in degree of disappearance from 23% to 82%. Planted treatments did not enhance PAH dissipation relative to those without plants, but treatments with high biomass yield and high transpiration plant species had significantly less removal of PAHs than unplanted controls. Significant, negative correlations between nitrogen removal and decreases in PAH concentration suggest that competition for nutrients between plants and microorganisms may have impeded the microbial degradation of PAHs in the rhizosphere of the more rapidly growing plant species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1614-1619
Number of pages6
Issue number10
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Bioremediation
  • Microorganisms
  • PAHs
  • Petroleum
  • Phytoremediation
  • Plants
  • Sediments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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