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Assessment of metal availability in smelter soil using earthworms and chemical extractions

Conder, J.M., Lanno, R.P., and N.T. Basta . 2001. Journal of Environmental Quality 30:1231-1237


Chemical immobilization is a relatively inexpensive in situ remediation method that reduces soil contaminant solubility, but the ability of this remediation treatment to reduce heavy metal bioavailability and ecotoxicity to soil invertebrates has not been evaluated. Our objectives were to (i) assess the ability of chemical immobilization amendments (municipal sewage sludge biosolids and rock phosphate) to reduce metal bioavailability and toxicity in a toxic metal-contaminated smelter soil and (ii) evaluate soil extraction methods using Ca(NO3)2 solution or ion-exchange membranes coated with diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA) as surrogate measures of metal bioavailability and ecotoxicity. We treated a soil contaminated by Zn and Pb milling and smelting operations and an uncontaminated control soil with lime-stabilized municipal biosolids (LSB), rock phosphate (RP), or anaerobically digested municipal biosolids (SS) and evaluated lethality of the remediated soils to earthworm (Eisenia fetida Savigny). Lime-stabilized municipal biosolids was the only remediation amendment to successfully immobilize lethal levels of Zn in the smelter soil (14-d cumulative mortality <15%). Calcium nitrate extractable Zn in the lethal Zn smelter soil amendment combinations was 11.5 to 18.2 mmol/kg, compared with the nonlethal LSB amended soil (0.62 mmol/kg). The Ca(NO3)2 extractable Zn-based median lethal concentration (LC50) of 6.33 mmol/kg previously developed in Zn-spiked artificial soils was applicable in the remediated smelter soils despite a 14-fold difference in total Zn concentration. Chelating ion-exchange membrane uptake among the soils was highly variable (mean CV = 39%) compared with the Ca(NO3)2-extraction (mean CV = 1.9%) and not well related to earthworm toxicity.

Key Words

DTPA, diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid, ILL, incipient lethal level (time-independent LC50), LC50, median lethal concentration, LSB, lime-stabilized municipal sewage sludge biosolids, PRS, Plant Root Simulator ion-exchange membrane, RP, rock phosphate, SS, anaerobically digested municipal sewage sludge biosolids