The influence of soluble organic matter from municipal solid waste compost on trace metal leaching in calcareous soils.Sci Total Environ 2002; 291(1-3):45-57ST
The use of municipal solid waste (MSW) compost as fertilizer may cause increased leaching due to its high content of trace metals and thus pose a threat to groundwater quality. The effect of MSW compost application on trace metal leaching in calcareous soils has been studied in soil column experiments under laboratory conditions using three soils from the study area in the Gaza Strip and Israel. Higher levels of organic matter in solution (TOMS), nitrate, and the trace metals Cu, Ni and Zn were found in the leachates of a sandy soil and, to a lesser extent, a loamy soil, to which MSW compost had been applied at a rate of 65 Mg ha(-1) (dry weight basis). Nevertheless, the majority of water-soluble trace metal species from compost accumulated in the topsoil rather than washing out, with the exception of aqueous Ni species. Ni concentrations exceeded the maximum allowable limits for drinking water (in Germany: 50 microg l(-1)) at peak times in the leachates from sandy soil, while all other trace metals remained far below the corresponding limits. The highest absolute concentrations of trace metals were found for the leaching of Cu from compost-amended sandy soil (100 microg l(-1)). For Cd, Pb and Hg no evidence of downward movement was found in any assay. Gel filtration studies of the collected soil leachates showed that all trace metals encountered in the leachates existed mostly as organic complexes. In sandy soil most of the water-soluble organic matter added with the compost had leached from the rootzone after a year's equivalent of rainfall, while TOMS mobility was greatly reduced in the loamy soil. The makeup of the TOMS in the sandy soil and its metal-binding capacity was strongly influenced by compost-derived dissolved organic matter (DOM) as observed by FTIR spectrometry. Hence the vertical displacement of trace metals (Cu, Ni, Zn) in these calcareous soils seemed to result primarily from the presence of mobile metal-organic complexes in the soil solution after compost addition. Further studies are required to validate these findings in the field, especially to assess the risk of Cu and Ni leaching in sandy soil.