NPLK14021U Soil and Water Pollution, Concepts and Theory

Volume 2014/2015
MSc Programme in Environmental Chemistry and Health
MSc Programme in Nature Management
MSc Programme in Agriculture

Review of composition and properties of soils and natural waters critical for pollutant fate and effects. Environmental microbiology: terrestrial and aquatic microbial lifestyles emphasizing microbial degrader populations. Reviews of methods for characterization of abiotic and microbial status of soils and natural waters.

Overview of pollutants in soil and aqueous environments with emphasis on their physical-chemical, and microbiological properties.  Sources/sinks, monitoring systems and data and mass balances of pollutants including heavy metals, radionuclides, acids, pesticides, endocrine disruptors, detergents, PAH’s, halogenated compounds, veterinary drugs/biomedicine, natural toxins, anthropogenic nanoparticles, radionuclides, and microbial pathogens. Solubility, complexation and speciation of toxic inorganic compounds in soils and natural waters. Pollutant binding processes including ion exchange, surface complexation, and partitioning into organic matter and living media (bioconcentration, biomagnification). Reactions at particle surfaces including surface catalysis and immobilization. Hydrolysis and photochemical degradation. Redox processes, zonations and sequences. Microbial/enzymatic degradation and mineralization pathways, metabolite formation, and transformation kinetics. Software for QSAR estimation of pollutant properties, and for computing speciation and binding (MINTEQ).

Biodegradation and toxicity, microbe-metal interactions, metal toxicity and resistance; xenogenetic pollutants and antibiotic resistance.

Outlook: Emerging pollutants, genes and microorganisms

Learning Outcome

The objectives of the course are to comprehend and to study how: i) soils and natural waters are affected by pollution, ii) soils function as “filters” for natural attenuation of pollutants, iii) pollutants bind and transform, and iv) how we quantify the chemical and microbial processes.

After completion you should be able to:
- Classify and provide overview of main inorganic and organic pollutants in terrestrial ecosystems, and to present knowledge on the relationships between land use, soil and water quality
- Describe how microbes interact with soils and how this affect pollutant degradation
- Describe key properties and processes of pollutants critical for sorption, abiotic and microbial degradation, bioavailability and biomagnification in terrestrial systems
- Classify and summarize the molecular mechanisms controlling pollutant degradation, transformation and bonding in soils and water
- Acquire knowledge on the methods available for predicting the fate of chemical substances in soil and aquatic environments
- Describe analytical procedures and monitoring strategies for pollutants in terrestrial systems

- Retrieve and critical examine environmental chemical data
- Apply and demonstrate the use of general principles from chemistry and microbiology for quantification and evaluation of pollutant fate and balances
- Estimate chemical and physical properties of pollutants and pollutant fate in terrestrial ecosystems
- Suggest methods and approaches used for assessing microbe-pollutant interactions
- Critically report on pollutant fate and remediation in terrestrial and aquatic environments

- Combine data and information from different sources in calculus, prediction and evaluation of pollutant mass balances, fate and effects in soils and aquatic systems
- Judge the relative importance of various sorption and transformation processes on the overall distribution and fate of chemical substances in soil and aquatic environments
- Diagnose the processes critical for the fate of any pollutant, and critical select tools for analysis and evaluation
- Discuss and assess the complexity of how land use affect soil and water quality
- Collaborate with fellow students on problem solving and reporting critical pollutant assessments
- Point to new directions and aspects of emerging pollutants

Hansen, H.C.B. (ed)(2014) Soil Pollution: Biogeochemistry and Modelling - including exercises. 

Schwarzenbach, R.P. et al. (2005) Environmental Organic Chemistry, 2nd. Ed., Wiley, chapt. 14
Handout notes and journal papers.

Maier, R.M. et al. (2009) Environmental Microbiology, 2nd Ed., Ch. 4, 6, 20 and 21.

Software for speciation analysis.
Software for QSAR estimation of pollutant properties

Excursion material

The course builds on basic chemical principles corresponding to the level of 1st year university chemistry. Physical chemistry is applied to environmental chemistry and hence basic understanding of thermodynamics and kinetics is used in the course. Similarly, the course builds on basic principles in biology and microbiology. The course assumes a basic understanding of structure, composition and properties of soils and natural waters. We recommend the following background:
- Basic course in chemistry
- Course on soil or geochemistry, e.g. "Soil, Water and Plants"
- Basic course in Microbiology
For students who are weak within one or more of the basic disciplines we offer short brush-up lectures incl. reading/training.
Lectures, theoretical exercises incl. use of computer computations, and project work. Two half-day excursions comprising examples of soil and water pollution, remediation, and monitoring. Lectures to provide overview and highlight main topics. Emphasis on computational exercises to train the chemical and microbial principles and models taught. Computer exercises comprise QSAR computation of pollutant properties, and equilibrium speciation. Project work focus on description, quantification and discusion of contemporary cases of water and soil pollution and the remediation technologies which can be used. The projects draw on the general insight in chemical, and microbial processes presented in the course. Each project is solved by groups (3 – 5) of students and it is presented as a written report which is presented orally to the class.
This the course for those students who:
- are interested in applying chemistry and microbiology to pollutant fate in soils, sediments and natural waters
- would like hands on and experience with computational approaches
- seeks to learn tools that can quantify speciation, bonding, and degradation, and who would like to use this insight for remediation
- like to work in a class of international students
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Excursions
  • 12
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 70
  • Project work
  • 60
  • Theory exercises
  • 32
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 4 h under invigilation
Written assignment
Exam comprise project report (counts by 40 %) and a written exam (60 %)
Exam registration requirements
Oral presentation of project report.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examinator
If 10 or fewer registered for the reexamination the examination form will be oral.
Criteria for exam assesment

See learning outcome