In situ remediation of contaminated sediments using carbonaceous materials

M.I. Rakowska, D. Kupryianchyk, J. Harmsen, J.T.C. Grotenhuis, A.A. Koelmans

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Carbonaceous materials (CM), such as activated carbons or biochars, have been shown to significantly reduce porewater concentrations and risks by binding hydrophobic organic compounds (HOCs) present in aquatic sediments. In the present study, the authors review the current state-of-the-art use of CM as an extensive method for sediment remediation, covering both technical and ecological angles. The review addresses how factors such as CM type, particle size and dosage, sediment characteristics, and properties of contaminants affect the effectiveness of CM amendment to immobilize HOCs in aquatic sediments. The authors also review the extent to which CM may reduce bioaccumulation and toxicity of HOCs and whether CM itself has negative effects on benthic species and communities. The review is based on literature and datasets from laboratory as well as field trials with CM amendments. The presence of phases such as natural black carbon, oil, or organic matter in the sediment reduces the effectiveness of CM amendments. Carbonaceous material additions appear to improve the habitat quality for benthic organisms by reducing bioavailable HOC concentrations and toxicity in sediment. The negative effects of CM itself on benthic species, if any, have been shown to be mild. The beneficial effects of reducing toxicity at low CM concentrations most probably outweigh the mild negative effects observed at higher CM concentrations
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-704
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • polycyclic aromatic-hydrocarbons
  • polychlorinated biphenyl sorption
  • hydrophobic organic contaminants
  • polychaete neanthes-arenaceodentata
  • activated carbon
  • black carbon
  • marine sediment
  • macoma-balthica
  • mass-transfer
  • lumbriculus-variegatus


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