Transport and degradation of propyleneglycol and potassium acetate in the unsaturated zone

H.K. French, S.E.A.T.M. van der Zee, A. Leijnse

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De-icing chemicals used during the winter season are potential pollutants for the groundwater underneath the new main airport of Norway. Several field experiments examining the transport and degradation of propyleneglycol (PG), potassium acetate (KAc) and non-reactive tracers were performed in a lysimeter trench under natural snowmelting conditions. Chemicals were applied underneath the snow cover and the transport in a heterogeneous coarse sandy soil was examined by extracting soil water from 30 or 40 suction cups placed at five depths between 0.4 and 2.4 m depth. Transport and degradation was analysed by spatial moment calculations. The de-icing chemicals showed the same basic displacement as chemically inactive tracers, an initial fast transport during the melting period followed by a period of stagnation throughout the summer season. PG seemed to be displaced to greater depths compared to non-reactive tracer after the first application. However, computer simulations of transport and degradation in a heterogeneous unsaturated soil showed that decreasing degradation constants with depth can generate a downward movement of the centre of mass without any flow occurring in the system. Potassium acetate showed some adsorption, with calculated retardation factors of approximately 1.3 and 1.2. The degradation rate constant for PG was calculated to be 0.015 day−1 in 1994 and increased to 0.047 day−1 in the second application made in 1995. The degradation rate constant for acetate was estimated to be 0.02 day−1. Increased manganese concentrations seem to be a good indicator of degradation of PG and Ac
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-48
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Airport
  • De-icing chemicals
  • Heterogeneous
  • Pollution
  • Sandy soil
  • Snowmelt


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