Effect of Water Saturation in Soil Organic Matter on the Partition of Organic Compounds

David W. Rutherford, Cary T. Chlou

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The sorption of benzene, trichloroethylene, and carbon tetrachloride at room temperature from water solution and from vapor on two high-organic-content soils (peat and muck) was determined in order to evaluate the effect of water saturation on the solute partition in soil organic matter (SOM). The uptake of water vapor was similarly determined to define the amounts of water in the saturated soil samples. In such high-organic-content soils the organic vapor sorption and the respective solute sorption from water exhibit linear isotherms over a wide range of relative concentrations. This observation, along with the low BET surface areas of the samples, suggests that partition in the SOM of the samples is the dominant process in the uptake of these liquids. A comparison of the sorption from water solution and from vapor phase shows that water saturation reduces the sorption (partition) efficiency of SOM by˜42%; the saturated water content is ˜38% by weight of dry SOM. This reduction is relatively small when compared with the almost complete suppression by water of organic compound adsorption on soil minerals. While the effect of water saturation on solute uptake by SOM is much expected in terms of solute partition in SOM, the influence of water on the solubility behavior of polar SOM can be explained only qualitatively by regular solution theory. The results suggest that the major effect of water in a drying-wetting cycle on the organic compound uptake by normal low-organic-content soils (and the associated compound's activity) is the suppression of adsorption by minerals rather than the mitigation of the partition effect in SOM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)965-970
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1992 May 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

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