Magnetic Parameter Changes in Soil and Sediments in the Presence of Hydrocarbon Contamination

Friday, 19 December 2014
Erwin Appel, Katharina Porsch, Moti Lal Rijal, Nawrass Nahid Ameen and Andreas Kappler, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
Magnetic proxies were successfully used for fast and non-destructive detection of fly ash related heavy metal pollution. Correlations of magnetic signals with organic contaminants in soils and sediments were also reported; however, their significance is unclear because of co-existing heavy metal pollution. At a hydrocarbon (HC) contaminated former military airbase (Hradcany, Czech Rep.), where heavy metal contents are insignificant, we detected clearly higher magnetic concentrations at the top of the groundwater fluctuation (GWF) zone. Frequent GWF by up to ca. one meter was caused through remediation by air sparging. In this study and all previous ones magnetite was identified as the dominant phase for higher magnetic concentrations.

To determine the importance of microbial activity and soil parameters on changes in magnetic susceptibility (MS) laboratory batch experiments with different microbially active and sterile soils without carbon addition and with gasoline amendment were setup. MS of these microcosms was followed weekly. Depending on the soil MS either increased or decreased by up to ~7% and remained constant afterwards. The main findings were that MS changes were mainly microbially driven and influenced by the bioavailable Fe content, the initial MS and the organic carbon content of the soils. Moreover, we tested magnetic changes in laboratory columns, filled with sand from the field site Hradcany, by simulating water level changes. The observed changes were small and hardly statistically significant.

Our laboratory studies revealed that different factors influence changes in magnetic properties of soil/sediments after HC contamination, with much smaller effects than expected from anomalies observed at field sites. With the present results, the ambitious goal of using magnetic monitoring for detecting HC contaminations by oil spills seem far from practical application.