Surfactant-enhanced flushing enhances colloid transport and alters macroporosity in diesel-contaminated soil

Soil contamination by diesel has been often reported as a result of accidental spillage, leakage and inappropriate use. Surfactant-enhanced soil flushing is a common remediation technique for soils contaminated by hydrophobic organic chemicals. In this study, soil flushing with linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS, an anionic surfactant) was conducted for intact columns (15cm in diameter and 12cm in length) of diesel-contaminated farmland purple soil aged for one year in the field. Dynamics of colloid concentration in column outflow during flushing, diesel removal rate and resulting soil macroporosity change by flushing were analysed. Removal rate of n-alkanes (representing the diesel) varied with the depth of the topsoil in the range of 14%-96% while the n-alkanes present at low concentrations in the subsoil were completely removed by LAS-enhanced flushing. Much higher colloid concentrations and larger colloid sizes were observed during LAS flushing in column outflow compared to water flushing. The X-ray micro-computed tomography analysis of flushed and unflushed soil cores showed that the proportion of fine macropores (30-250?m in diameter) was reduced significantly by LAS flushing treatment. This phenomenon can be attributed to enhanced clogging of fine macropores by colloids which exhibited higher concentration due to better dispersion by LAS. It can be inferred from this study that the application of LAS-enhanced flushing technique in the purple soil region should be cautious regarding the possibility of rapid colloid-associated contaminant transport via preferential pathways in the subsurface and the clogging of water-conducting soil pores.

Authors: Guan Z, Tang XY, Nishimura T, Katou H, Liu HY, Qing J. ; Full Source: Journal of Environmental Science (China). 2018 Feb; 64:197-206. doi: 10.1016/j.jes.2017.06.006. Epub 2017 Jun 23.

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