Microstructural (fabric, forces and composition) changes due to hydrocarbon contamination in a clayey soil (glacial till) were studied using scanning electron microscopy (microfabric analysis), atomic force microscopy (force measurement) and a sedimentation bench test (particle size measurements). Non-polluted and polluted glacial till from NE Poland (in the area of a fuel terminal) were used for the study. Electrostatic repulsive forces in the polluted samples were much lower than in non-polluted samples. In comparison with non-polluted samples, the polluted samples exhibited lower electric charge, attractive forces on approach and strong adhesion on withdrawal. The results of the sedimentation tests indicate that clay particles form larger aggregates and settle out of the suspension rapidly in diesel oil. In non-polluted soil, the fabric is strongly aggregated – dense packing, dominating face-to-face and edge-to-edge types of contacts, clay film tightly adhering to the surface of larger grains and interparticle pores are more common. In polluted soil the clay matrix is less aggregated – loose packing, dominating edge-to-face types of contacts and inter-micro-aggregate pores are more frequent. Substantial differences were observed in the morphometric and geometrical parameters of the pore space. The polluted soil micro-fabric proved to be more isotropic and less oriented than in non-polluted soil. The polluted soil, in which electrostatic forces were suppressed by hydrocarbon interaction, displays more open porosity and larger voids than non-polluted soil, which is characterized by the occurrence of strong electrostatic interaction between the clay particles.

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