Occurrence and distributions of geochemical markers on vegetation and in soils covering two self-heating coal waste dumps were investigated with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC–MS) and compared with those of bitumen expelled on the coal waste dump surface. Presence of biomarkers, alkyl aromatic hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and such polar compounds as phenols indicate that components of self-heating coal wastes indeed migrate to soils and plants surface and their characteristic fingerprints can be applied in passive monitoring to investigate migration of contaminants from self-heating coal wastes. Moreover, results allow to discriminate between the Upper- and Lower Silesian coal basins, notwithstanding value shifts caused by heating. Mechanisms enabling the migration of geochemical compounds into soils include mixing with weathered coal-waste material, transport in gases emitted due to self-heating and, indirectly, by deposition of biomass containing geochemical substances. Transport in gases involves mostly lighter compounds such as phenols, methylnaphthalenes, methylbiphenyls, etc. Distributions and values of geochemical ratios are related to differences in their boiling temperatures in the case of lighter compounds but preserve geochemical features in the case of heavier compounds such as pentacyclic trierpanes.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.