Recovery and distribution of biosolids-derived trace metals in a clay loam soil.J Environ Qual 2005 Sep-Oct; 34(5):1843-50JE
The long-term mobility of trace metals has been cited as a potential hazard by critics of EPA 503 rule governing the land application of biosolids. The objectives of this study were to assess the accumulation of Cu, Ni, Cd, and Zn within the soil profile; the distribution of exchangeable, specifically adsorbed, organic, and oxide fractions of each metal; and mass balance of Cu, Ni, and Zn 17 yr after a single biosolids application. Biosolids were applied to 1.5- x 2.3-m confined plots of a Davidson clay loam (fine, kaolinitic, thermic Rhodic Kandiudult) in 1984 at 0, 42, 84, 126, 168, and 210 Mg ha(-1). The highest biosolids application supplied 4.5, 750, 43, and 600 kg ha(-1) of Cd, Cu, Ni, and Zn, respectively. Soils were sampled to a depth of 0.9 m and sectioned into 5-cm increments after separating the Ap horizon. Total (EPA-3050B), bioavailable (Mehlich-I), sequential extraction, and dispersible clay analyses were performed on samples from the control, 126 Mg ha(-1), and 210 Mg ha(-1) treatments. Trace metals are still concentrated in the top 0.2 m with slight enrichment down to 0.3 m. More than 85% of applied Cu, Ni, and Zn are still found in the topsoil where biosolids was incorporated and 95% or more of the applied metals were accounted for with mass balance calculations. Mehlich-I results showed a slight increase in metal concentration down to 0.35 m. Biosolids application increased the concentrations of trace metals in all the extracted fractions. The major portions of Cu, Zn, and Ni are associated with the metal-oxides fraction. Dispersible clay content and water-soluble metal contents were low and except for water-soluble Zn they were not affected by biosolids application. Results from this study showed that 17 yr after biosolids application there was negligible movement of trace metals through the soil profile and consequently there is little risk of contamination of ground water at this site.