Sequestration of hydrophobic organic contaminants by geosorbents

Richard G. Luthy, George R. Aiken, Mark L. Brusseau, Scott D. Cunningham, Philip M. Gschwend, Joseph J. Pignatello, Martin Reinhard, Samuel J. Traina, Walter J. Weber, John C. Westall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

877 Scopus citations


The chemical interactions of hydrophobic organic contaminants (HOCs) with soils and sediments (geosorbents) may result in strong binding and slow subsequent release rates that significantly affect remediation rates and endpoints. The underlying physical and chemical phenomena potentially responsible for this apparent sequestration of HOCs by geosorbents are not well understood. This challenges our concepts for assessing exposure and toxicity and for setting environmental quality criteria. Currently there are no direct observational data revealing the molecular-scale locations in which nonpolar organic compounds accumulate when associated with natural soils or sediments. Hence macroscopic observations are used to make inferences about sorption mechanisms and the chemical factors affecting the sequestration of HOCa by geosorbents. Recent observations suggest that HOC interactions with geosorbents comprise different inorganic and organic surfaces and matrices, and distinctions may be drawn along these lines, particularly with regard to the roles of inorganic micropores, natural sorbent organic matter components, combustion residue particulate carbon, and spilled organic liquids. Certain manipulations of sorbates or sorbent media may help reveal sorption mechanisms, but mixed sorption phenomena complicate the interpretation of macroscopic data regarding diffusion of HOC into and out of different matrices and the hysteric sorption and aging effects common y observed for geosorbents. Analytical characterizations at the microscale, and mechanistic models derived therefrom, are needed to advance scientific knowledge of HOC sequestration, release, and environmental risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3341-3347
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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