Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Document Type



Contaminant distribution is integral to environmental evaluations of contaminated sediment on every level. The technical and economic feasibility of treatment or beneficial use is a function of the accessibility or separability of the contaminants within the sediment. The magnitude of release to the environment during dredging and disposal is dependent upon the partitioning behavior of the contaminants. Yet, little attention has been paid to contaminant distribution in the fine sediment fractions. Further, conventional distribution coefficients provide little information regarding the relative contaminant loading of each of the sorptive phases. Bioavailability of contaminants in oil and grease, soot and organic carbon, components of sediment total organic carbon (TOC), may be vastly different. Physical properties are also different and determine fate during treatment. This study focused on the relative distribution of PAHs and PCBs in size and density fractions of three sediments, which were physically separated for direct measurement of contaminants in the fractions and correlation to sorptive phase distribution. Oil and grease, soot, (non-black carbon) organic carbon and mineral clay were measured in sediment fractions. Correlations between contaminant mass and the sorptive phases were established for a linear model using statistical analysis. From this model phase specific contaminant concentrations were obtained and contaminant reduction potential evaluated. Contaminant concentrations were typically highest in oil and grease, soot, organic carbon, and clay, in that order. Black carbon and organic phases appear to be most important to PAH sorption. Clay appears to play a greater role in sorption of PCBs, although it was not significant for all sediments, and the influence of fine-grained organics on clay fraction sorption could not be distinguished without statistical analysis. Phase specific distribution coefficients were calculated based on predicted contaminant concentrations in the sorptive phases. Typically oil and grease and soot coefficients were larger than organic carbon coefficients. The magnitude of the soot coefficients was generally higher for PAHs than for PCBs. Predicted coefficients showed little dependence on log Kow, suggesting that in the natural environment, sorption of PAHs and PCBs is governed more by sorbent availability and steric effects, than by contaminant hydrophobicity.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

John H. Pardue