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Relationship between the Concentrations of Dissolved Organic Matter and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in a Typical U.K. Upland Stream

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NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Library Avenue, Bailrigg, Lancaster, LA1 4AP, U.K.
*Phone: 0044 1524 595985; e-mail: [email protected]
Cite this: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 48, 1, 130–138
Publication Date (Web):December 6, 2013
Copyright © Published 2013 by the American Chemical Society

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    Concentrations of total and freely dissolved polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were measured in water collected during four sampling events at five sites from the River Wyre. The sites are typical of streams draining upland organically rich soils in northwest U.K. Freely dissolved PAHs were separated from those associated with DOC using a flocculation method. The sum of concentrations of the total and freely dissolved PAHs analyzed ranged from 2.71 to 18.9 ng/L and 2.61 to 16.8 ng/L, respectively. PAH concentrations and PAH fluxes derived from concentrations and water flow rates generally increased downstream, the trend in the latter being more pronounced. The concentration of individual PAHs containing five or more aromatic rings was found to be strongly correlated to the DOC concentration (p < 0.0001), suggesting common terrestrial sources and hydrological pathways. In contrast, no significant relationships were observed between concentrations of PAHs with four or fewer rings and DOC. Concentrations of PAHs with more than four rings showed similar seasonal variation as DOC concentration (peaking in the late summer), while variation in two or three ring PAHs was out of phase with DOC (peaking in the winter). As the PAH–DOC relationship appeared partly dependent on the molecular weight of the PAHs, a linear regression function that included an interaction between this variable and DOC concentration was used to model PAH concentrations over a 2 year period to estimate annual fluxes. The relationship identified between PAH concentrations and DOC should help to enhance interpretation of PAH monitoring data that are currently sparse both spatially and temporally and, thus, enable more robust assessments of the potential risks of these environmental pollutants to sensitive aquatic organisms and human water supplies.

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    Method details including a map of the sampling sites; GC–MS analysis; recovery statistics and PAH flux estimation; diagnostic PAH ratios and additional information on regression surfaces; and literature data on log KOW, surface water PAH, and DOC concentrations and on log KDOC–log KOW relationships. The full data set of PAH and DOC concentration measured in this study can be found under This material is available free of charge via the Internet at

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