Mobility of dissolved organic matter from the Suwannee River (Georgia, USA) in sand-packed columns

Daniel P. McInnis, Diogo Bolster, Patricia A. Maurice

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7 Scopus citations


Transport of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from the Suwannee River and of synthetic polystyrene sulfonates (PSSs) was investigated in columns packed with naturally Fe/Al-oxide-coated sands from Oyster, Virginia. Surface-water samples were collected in May 2012 and processed by XAD-8 (humic substances; HPOA), XAD-4 (transphilic acids [TPIAs]), and reverse osmosis (broad range of components; NOM). Median transport time (Ro) of PSSs increased with molecular weight (MW) from 1,000 to 8,000 Da but decreased for the largest PSS (18,000 Da), which is consistent with previous observations of MW effects on DOM adsorption and transport. Breakthrough curves (BTCs) of HPOAs and NOM were similar whereas TPIA transport was distinct; although all DOM samples had similar Ro values, BTC asymmetry and dispersivity were greater for TPIAs. All samples exhibited power-law tailing that is characteristic of heterogeneous sorbent/sorbate interactions, potentially including kinetic effects. The one-dimensional advection-dispersion equation was unable to capture the tailing but it was captured well using a continuous-time random walk (CTRW) model. CTRW parameters were similar for the NOM and HPOA samples but distinctly different for TPIAs, which had more pronounced tailing. While retardation of organics generally tends to increase with MW, the lower average MW of TPIAs did not result in decreased overall retardation, which suggests the importance of compositional differences. Results suggest that while TPIAs tend to be a relatively minor component of DOM, their transport behavior differs from that of the predominant HPOA fraction, and they might thus have different impacts on pollutant transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-13
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Engineering Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.


  • Suwannee River
  • humic substances
  • natural organic matter
  • organic matter transport


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