Effects of soil water content on biodegradation of phenanthrene in a mixture of organic contaminants

Baozhi Liu, M. Kathy Banks, Paul Schwab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Phenanthrene biodegradation was investigated at different soil water contents [0.11, 0.22, 0.33, 0.44 g H2O (g soil)-1] to determine the effects of water availability on biodegradation rate. A subsurface horizon of Kennebec silty loam soil was used in this study. [9-14C] phenanthrene was dissolved in a mixture of organic contaminants that consisted of 76% decane, 6% p-xylene, 6% phenanthrene, 6% pristane, and 6% naphthalene, and then added to the soil. The highest rate of mineralization, in which 0.23% of the [9-14C] phenanthrene degraded to 14CO2 after 66 days of incubation, was observed at the soil water content of 0.44 g H2O/g dry soil. Most of the 14C remained in the soil as the parent compound or as nonextractable compounds by acetonitrile at the highest water content. Concentrations of nonextractable compounds increased with water content, but residual extractable phenanthrene decreased significantly with increasing water content, which presumably indicates that bio-transformation occurred. The mineralization analysis of radiolabeled 9th carbon in phenanthrene underestimated phenanthrene biodegradation. The strong adsorption and low solubility of phenanthrene contributed to the low mineralization of phenanthrene 9th carbon. The other components were subject to higher biological and abiotic dissipation processes with increasing soil water content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-658
Number of pages26
JournalSoil and Sediment Contamination
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001


  • Mineralization
  • PAHs
  • Petroleum
  • Soil contamination
  • Soil moisture content

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Soil Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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