Effects of Soil Water Content on Biodegradation of Phenanthrene in a Mixture of Organic Contaminants Academic Article uri icon


  • 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.

published proceedings

  • Soil and Sediment Contamination An International Journal

author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, B., Banks, M. K., & Schwab, P.

citation count

  • 12

complete list of authors

  • Liu, Baozhi||Banks, M Kathy||Schwab, Paul

publication date

  • November 2001