Vertical small scale variations of sorption and mineralization of three herbicides in subsurface limestone and sandy aquifer

Gry Sander Janniche, C. Mouvet, Hans-Jørgen Albrechtsen

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    Vertical variation in sorption and mineralization potential of mecoprop (MCPP), isoproturon and acetochlor was investigated at low concentrations (μg-range) at the cm-scale in unsaturated sub-surface limestone samples and saturated sandy aquifer samples from an agricultural catchment in Brévilles, France. From two intact core drills, four heterogenic limestone sections were collected from 4.50-26.40 m below surface (mbs) and divided into 12 sub-samples of 8-25 cm length, and one sandy aquifer section from 19.20-19.53 m depth divided into 7 sub-samples of 4-5 cm length. In the sandy aquifer section acetochlor and isoproturon sorption increased substantially with depth; in average 78% (acetochlor) and 61% (isoproturon) per 5 cm. Also the number of acetochlor and isoproturon degraders (mostprobable-number) was higher in the bottom half of the aquifer section (93->16 000 /g) than in the upper half (4-71 /g). One 50 cm long limestone section with a distinct shift in color showed a clear shift in mineralization, number of degraders and sorption: In the two brown, uppermost samples, up to 31% mecoprop and up to 9% isoproturon was mineralized during 231 days, the numbers of mecoprop and isoproturon degraders were 1 300 to >16 000 /g, and the sorption of both isoproturon and acetochlor was more than three times higher, compared to the two deeper, grayish samples just below where mineralization (≤4 %) and numbers of degraders (1-520 /g) were low for all three herbicides. In both unsaturated limestone and sandy aquifer, variations and even distinct shifts in both mineralization, number of specific degraders and sorption were seen within just 4-15 cm of vertical distance. A simple conceptual model of herbicides leaching to groundwater through a 10 m unsaturated limestone was established, and calculations showed that a 30 cm active layer with the measured sorption and mineralization values hardly impacted the fate of the investigated herbicides, whereas a total thickness of layers of 1 m would substantially increase natural attenuation.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
    Issue number3-4
    Pages (from-to)167-177
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • Pesticide
    • Mecoprop (MCPP)
    • Degradation
    • Acetochlor
    • Isoproturon
    • Fate


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