Role of loosely bound humic substances and humin in the bioavailability of phenanthrene aged in soil.

A study was conducted to determine a possible role of loosely bound humic substances (i.e., humic and fulvic acids) in bioavailability of aged phenanthrene with time. In this study, long-term residence of phenanthrene in soil is defined as aging or sequestration, and the effect was determined by the declined bioavailability to bacteria of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon with increased residence time. After 1, 7, and 100 days of aging of phenanthrene in Lima loam, about 90-93% of initial phenanthrene was recovered from the humin-mineral fraction of Lima loam whereas less than 12% was found in humic and fulvic acids of the same soil. Mineralization rates of phenanthrene aged in the humin-mineral fraction significantly decreased with time by the test bacterium P5-2. In terms of extents of mineralization, the difference with time was not appreciable, but still significant at P<0.05. Additional decreases in the rates and extents of mineralization were observed with the whole soil (i.e. Lima loam) to which phenanthrene had been aged. Data suggest that major sequestration sites for phenanthrene may reside in the humin-mineral fraction, and probably humic and fulvic acids may act as a physico-chemical barrier to bacterial degradation so that the compound's bioavailability may be limited.