Sequestration of Organic Pollutants in the Environments: Implications on Bioavailability and Bioremediation

  • Published : 2000.11.01


For the last several decades, the fate of organic pollutants has been extensively studied in natural environments with emphasis on sorption and desorption phenomena. Although the mechanisms involved are not clear yet there is a consensus about the existence of hysteresis in the sorption and desorption of organic pollutants. Furthermore, it is found that hysteresis is the outcome of slow nonequilibrium sorption of organic pollutants, which results in the formation of desorption-resistant fractions of the pollutants. Desorption-resistant fractions may increase as a function of the residence time of the pollutants in the environments. Field monitoring data show a slow but continuous decline of chemicals applied to soil, followed by little or no subsequent disappearance. One plausible explanation for such resistance to biodegradation, desorption, or extraction can be attributed the gradual movement of organic pollutants to less accessible remote sites inside the matrix with time. This phenomenon has been termed sequestration or aging. The fact that some pollutants are sequestered in soil with time may have a great impact on bioremediation and risk assessment, Some portion of the resistant pollutants may still be present in the environments after bioremediation. It requires vigorous means to completely remove the aged portion that may not be further bioavailable. However, precaution should be taken since aging is not always evident. Aging seems to be soil and chemical specific.