Restoration of high zinc and lead tailings with municipal biosolids and lime: a field study

Received for publication February 26, 2008. A field study was conducted to test the ability of biosolids (BS) and different types of lime to increase soil pH, neutralize subsoil acidity, and restore a vegetative cover to alluvial mine tailings in Leadville, CO. The tailings had soil pH of 5.2 and total Cd, Pb, and Zn of 75 ± 20, 2600 ± 1100, and 6700 ± 1900 mg kg–1. Types of lime included agricultural lime (AL), sugar beet lime (SBL), and lime kiln dust (LKD) applied at 224 Mg ha–1 calcium carbonate equivalent. Plots were established in 2000 and monitored intermittently through 2007. All amendments increased pH in surface and subsurface depths, with LKD, LKD+BS, and SBL+BS being the most effective. Amendments also reduced 0.01 mol L–1 Ca(NO3)2 extractable Zn and Cd compared to the control. Plant growth was sparse on all treatments with limited yield for three of four harvests. Poor growth may have been related to elevated electrical conductivity (EC). All amendments except LKD alone (5.79 dS m–1) increased EC compared to the control treatment (5.28 dS m–1). Electrical conductivity was highest in 2002 which had the lowest summer rainfall. In 2005 EC in all treatments except the SBL+BS was similar in the surface soil. Aboveground plant tissue concentrations of Zn and Cd were also elevated. Limited precipitation and high electrical conductivity may be responsible for poor plant growth. Higher rainfall for the last sampling period resulted in significant growth in the LKD+BS, SBL+BS, and LKD alone treatments.

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