Microbial interactions with naturally occurring hydrophobic sediments: Influence on sediment and associated contaminant mobility
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The erosion, transport and fate of sediments and associated contaminants are known to be influenced by both particle characteristics and the flow dynamics imparted onto the sediment. The influential role of bitumen containing hydrophobic sediments and the microbial community on sediment dynamics are however less understood. This study links an experimental evaluation of sediment erosion with measured sediment-associated contaminant concentrations and microbial community analysis to provide an estimate of the potential for sediment to control the erosion, transport and fate of contaminants. Specifically the paper addresses the unique behaviour of hydrophobic sediments and the role that the microbial community associated with hydrophobic sediment may play in the transport of contaminated sediment. Results demonstrate that the hydrophobic cohesive sediment demonstrates unique transport and particle characteristics (poor settling and small floc size). Biofilms were observed to increase with consolidation/biostabilization times and generated a unique microbial consortium relative to the eroded flocs. Natural oil associated with the flocs appeared to be preferentially associated with microbial derived extracellular polymeric substances. While PAHs and naphthenic acid increased with increasing shear (indicative of increasing loads), they tended to decrease with consolidation/biostabilization (CB) time at similar shears suggesting a chemical and/or biological degradation. PAH and napthenic acid degrading microbes decreased with time as well, which may suggest that there was a reduced pool of PAHs and naphthenic acids available resulting in their die off. This study emphasizes the importance that any management strategies and operational assessments for the protection of human and aquatic health incorporate the sediment (suspended and bed sediment) and biological (biofilm) compartments and the energy dynamics within the system in order to better predict contaminant transport.
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