Modeling toxic compounds from nitric oxide emission measurements
Determining the amount and rate of degradation of toxic pollutants in soil and groundwater is difficult and often requires invasive techniques, such as deploying extensive monitoring well networks. Even with these networks, degradation rates across entire systems cannot readily be extrapolated from the samples. When organic compounds are degraded by microbes, especially nitrifying bacteria, oxides or nitrogen (NOx) are released to the atmosphere. Thus, the flux of nitric oxide (NO) from the soil to the lower troposphere can be used to predict the rate at which organic compounds are degraded. By characterizing and applying biogenic and anthropogenic processes in soils the rates of degradation of organic compounds. Toluene was selected as a representative of toxic aromatic compounds, since it is inherently toxic, it is a substituted benzene compound and is listed as a hazardous air pollutant under Section 12 of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Measured toluene concentrations in soil, microbial population growth and NO fluxes in chamber studies were used to develop and parameterize a numerical model based on carbon and nitrogen cycling. These measurements, in turn, were used as indicators of bioremediation of air toxic (i.e. toluene) concentrations. The model found that chemical concentration, soil microbial abundance, and NO production can be directly related to the experimental results (significant at P < 0.01) for all toluene concentrations tested. This indicates that the model may prove useful in monitoring and predicting the fate of toxic aromatic contaminants in a complex soil system. It may also be useful in predicting the release of ozone precursors, such as changes in reservoirs of hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen. As such, the model may be a tool for decision makers in ozone non-attainment areas.
Vallero, DA; Peirce, J; Cho, KD
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