Sorption of high explosives to water-dispersible clay: Influence of organic carbon, aluminosilicate clay, and extractable iron

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Explosives in soils can present environmental problems for military installations. Fine, mobile particles represent the most reactive fraction of the soil and, therefore, are expected to adsorb explosives and potentially facilitate their transport. The objective of this study was to determine the relative significance of phyllosilicate clay, organic matter, and two forms of extractable iron in adsorption of 2,4,6- trinitrotoluene (TNT) and hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) by the colloidal water-dispersible clay (WDC) fraction of the soil. Th e WDC fraction of two mineral and one organic soil was separated and then treated to remove organic carbon (OC) and several forms of iron (Feo, oxalate extractable, and Fed, dithionite-citrate extractable). Adsorption coefficients were determined for whole soils, untreated, and treated WDC. For mineral soils, adsorption of TNT and RDX on the WDC was greater than on the whole soil. The presence of OC increased explosives sorption by WDC.

When OC was removed, iron interfered with TNT sorption. In the presence of OC, removal of Feo decreased RDX  sorption and increased TNT adsorption indicating different adsorption mechanisms. Organic carbon was a more significant indicator of explosives adsorption by WDC than clays or iron oxides and hydroxides. Therefore, OC is the most likely medium for facilitated transport of TNT and RDX.

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