This study compared the contamination levels and compositional characteristics of PAHs in soil, SS and sediment to understand the cross media characteristics among the three solid media and ecological risk implications for the purpose to help manage in a more integrated manner the environmental quality objectives or the ecological risk in the media. The study area included urban (metropolis and industrial zone), suburban and rural sites. Seasonal samples were concurrently collected in surface soils, surface waters (dissolved and suspended solid (SS) phases separately) and sediments. The emission estimate and source characterizing PAH indices consistently indicated that PAHs were from pyrogenic sources. The level of total PAHs in soil declined along the wind direction from the urban areas to the rural areas. The sorption power of soil appeared distinctly different between the urban and rural areas. The contamination levels and PAH profiles in soil and sediment were closely related to each other while no such correlation was observed between SS and sediment or SS and soil. Comparisons of the observed partitioning coefficients with three different partitioning equilibrium models strongly suggested that PAHs in water appeared to undergo partitioning among the dissolved phase in water, dissolved organic matter, and organic and soot carbons in SS, which might account for the level and profile of PAHs in SS that were not correlated with those in soil or sediment. The observed results suggested that PAHs of pyrogenic origins entered into soil, sediment, and water by the atmospheric deposition and subsequent other cross-media transfers of PAHs. The results also evidenced that sediments were principally contaminated with PAHs delivered via surface run-off from soil although in the urban areas the run-off influence appeared less immediate than in the rural areas. Environmental quality objectives for PAHs in soil and sediment should be set in a coherent manner and the protection efforts for the sediment quality should be made with the consideration of the soil quality particularly where the river bottom sediment is renewed periodically with eroded soil due to heavy rain and/or large river regime coefficient. In spite of the difference in PAH profiles among the three solid media, BaP commonly appeared to present the greatest TEQ, suggesting that strict regulation of BaP is necessary to efficiently and substantially minimize the total risk of the environmental PAHs.
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