Main content area

Reversible and irreversible sorption of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) by sediments of an urban reservoir

Chen, Huiting, Reinhard, Martin, Nguyen, Viet Tung, Gin, Karina Yew-Hoong
Chemosphere 2016 v.144 pp. 1747-1753
desorption, hexane, models, perfluorocarbons, sediment transport, sediments, surface quality, surface water, thermodynamics, uncertainty, water quality, water resources
Uncertainty about the extent to which contaminant sorption by suspended solids and bed sediments is irreversible is a major impediment for modeling and managing the water quality of surface water resources. This study examined reversible and irreversible sorption of several perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) to bed sediments from an urban reservoir. PFCs investigated include C4, C6, C8, C9 and C10 perfluoroalkanoate homologues (PFBA, PFHxA, PFOA, PFNA and PFDA, respectively) and perfluorooctane and hexane sulfonate (PFOS and PFHxS, respectively). Although sorption branches of the PFOS, PFNA and PFDA isotherms were nearly linear (implying a partitioning-like process), desorption experiments indicated that a fraction of the sorbed PFCs were entrapped and resistant to desorption. The hysteretic desorption branches were approximately linear. Irreversibility increased with chain length and was nearly complete for PFDA (thermodynamic irreversibility index (TII) 0.98). For the weakly sorbing PFOA and PFHxS, sorption was largely reversible. Data suggest that (1) for the strongly sorbing PFCs, e.g. PFNA, PFDA and PFOS, bed sediments acted predominantly as irreversible sinks, (2) aqueous concentrations of the moderately sorbing PFCs (PFOA and PFHxS) are buffered by reversibly sorbing suspended solids, and (3) the short-chain PFCs (PFBA and PFHxA) are not significantly sorbed and therefore not expected to be significantly influenced by sediment transport. Situations in which highly contaminated particles entering relatively clean water bodies, equilibrium is approached from the reverse (desorption) direction. For irreversibly sorbed contaminants field-based KD values will be higher than the KD values derived from laboratory sorption data obtained from forward sorption experiments.