Leaching behavior of heavy metals in biosolids amended sandy soils

Use of biosolids in agriculture to improve crop production and soil quality have created concerns due to content of heavy metals that may affect surface or ground water quality. A column leaching study was conducted to evaluate the leaching potential of copper (Cu), lead (Pb), zinc (Zn), cdmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), and nickel (Ni) from two typical agricultural sandy soils in South Florida (Spodosol and Alfisol) with increasing application of pelletized biosolids (called PB) at the rates of 0, 1.25, 5.0, 10.0 g kg-1, respectively together with chemical fertilizer (CF). Elevated PB rate resulted in reduced leaching loss of Cu, Pb, Zn, Cd, Co, Ni from Spodosol, but resulted in increased loss of Pb, Zn, Cd, and Co from Alfisol. Significant reduction in Cu loss occurred in both soils, which can be attributed to the strong binding of Cu with organic matter from the applied PB. Percentage of Cd loss as of total Cd was 13% - 41%, the highest in all the heavy metals, whereas loss of Pb as of total Pb was less than 6.6%, though the concentrations of Pb, Cd, Co, and Ni in leachate were mostly above the limits of U.S. EPA drinking water standards or the national secondary drinking water standards. These results indicate that soil properties, PB application rates, and chemical behavior of elements jointly influence the leachate total loads of heavy metals in sandy soils applied with biosolids. Application of CF together with BP at a rate higher than 10.0 g kg-1for sandy soils may pose potential threats to water quality due to enhanced leachate loads of Cr and Ni in Spodosol and Pb, Zn, Cd, Co and Ni in Alfisol.

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