This dissertation describes the investigation of the fate of hydrocarbons in stormwater bioretention areas and those mechanisms that affect hydrocarbon fate in such systems. Seventy-five samples from 58 bioretention areas were collected and analyzed to measure total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) residual and biodegradation functional genes. TPH residual in bioretention areas was greater than background sites but low overall (<3 µg/kg), and well below either the TPH concentration of concern or the expected concentration, assuming no losses. Bioretention areas with deep-root vegetation contained significantly greater quantites of bacterial 16S rRNA genes and two functional genes involved in hydrocarbon biodegradation. Field soils were capable of mineralizing naphthalene, a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) when incubated in the laboratory. In an additional laboratory investigation, a column study was initiated to comprehensively determine naphthalene fate in a simulated bioretention cell using a 14C-labeled tracer. Sorption to soil was the greatest sink of naphthalene in the columns, although biodegradation and vegetative uptake were also important loss mechanisms. Little leaching occurred following the first flush, and volatilization was insignificant. Significant enrichment of naphthalene degrading bacteria occurred over the course of the experiment as a result of naphthalene exposure. This was evident from enhanced naphthalene biodegradation kinetics (measured via batch tests), significant increases in naphthalene dioxygenase gene quantities, and a significant correlation observed between naphthalene residual and biodegradation functional genes. Vegetated columns outperformed the unplanted control column in terms of total naphthalene removal and biodegradation kinetics. As a result of these experiments, a final study focused on why planted systems outperform unplanted systems was conducted. Plant root exudates were harvested from hydroponic setups for three types of plants. Additionally, a solution of artificial root exudates (AREs) as prepared. Exudates were digested using soil bacteria to create metabolized exudates. Raw and metabolized exudates were characterized for dissolved organic carbon, specific UV absorbance, spectral slope, florescence index, excitation-emission matrices, and surface tension. Significant differences on character were observed between the harvested exudates and the AREs, as well as between the raw and metabolized exudates. Naphthalene desorption from an aged soil was enhanced in the presence of raw exudates. The surface tension in samples containing raw harvested exudates was reduced compared to samples containing the metabolized exudates. Plant root exudates may therefore facilitate phytoremediation by enhancing contaminant desorption and improving bioavailability. Overall, this resarch concludes that heavily planted bioretention systems are a sustainable solution to mitigating stormwater hydrocarbon pollution as a result of likely enhanced contaminant desorption, and improved biodegradation and plant uptake in such systems.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2012. Major:Civil Engineering. Advisors:Paige J. Novak, Raymond M. Hozalski. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 258 pages.
LeFevre, Gregory Hallett.
Fate and degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in stormwater bioretention cells..
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