Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


College of Engineering


Rebekah Oulton

Advisor Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


Pharmaceutical drugs are being produced and consumed in increasing quantities every year and are poorly treated by conventional wastewater treatment processes, leading to increasing detection of such compounds in surface water, groundwater, and municipal drinking water. Soil aquifer treatment (SAT) is a promising method for treating these emerging compounds through combined adsorption and degradation of target compounds in soil. This thesis examines the consistency of results from typical studies like adsorption isotherms and soil columns utilized in analysis of SAT performance, across varying experimental scales. The adsorption behavior of two pharmaceuticals was investigated as a function of experimental scale and soil organic content in adsorbent media. This thesis shows that broad trends in pharmaceutical adsorption are not dependent upon experimental scale. Across adsorption isotherm, bench-scale soil column, and large-scale soil column experiments, adsorption and of both drugs was greater in organic soil than inorganic soil, although dispersive transport may have increased in some experiments. Across all experiments, carbamazepine was adsorbed by soils more than diclofenac. Some inconsistencies were observed across scales between the two organic soils, a mediumorganic and high-organic soil, where adsorption was generally greater in high organic soil, but sometimes observed to be greater in medium organic soil. This may suggest that the decrease of experimental control resulting from increased experimental scale obfuscates more nuanced relationships in SAT experimental conditions. Broad trends in data showing whether or not a soil displayed significant adsorptive behavior and which pharmaceutical was adsorbed more were consistent. However, the degree of partitioning via adsorption varied across scales as experimental control decreased with increasing physical scale.