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Evaluation of extraction procedures for removing lead from contaminated soil.

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  • 1Inter-University Program on Environmental Toxicology, Technology and Management, School of Environmental Resources and Development, Asian Institute of Technology, Klong Luang, Patumthani, Thailand.


Soil extraction of lead contaminated soil collected from sites near an abandoned battery recycling and secondary lead-smelting factory was investigated for potential use in decontaminating soil at the sites. A fractionation study was conducted to elucidate soil retention mechanism for Pb at the site. Three soil pits were selected from an area surrounding the factory based on level of Pb contamination. Soil samples were collected from each pit in two layers: surface soil and subsoil (0-15 cm and 15-30 cm). Soil physical analysis showed that the soil texture was sandy loam and sandy clay loam with clay content between 11-21%. Soil pH was strongly acid to moderately acid (pH 4.8-5.9). Pb levels in the surface soil were 1620 and 153 mg kg(-1) (air-dried basis) respectively for heavily and slightly contaminated soil. A reference soil site contained 15 mg kg(-1) of Pb. Partitioning studies indicated that more than 90% of total Pb in the soil existed in three primary fractions: exchangeable, carbonate, and Fe-Mn oxide. This suggested that Pb sources entering the soil from the Pb factory remained in relatively weakly bound forms, which are mobile and have potentially biological availability. Mobility of Pb as in the soil assessed by mobility factor (MF) was as high as 75% indicating a high potential of Pb remobilization. Due to high mobility, the Pb would be amendable to remediation or removal by soil extraction procedures. To determine if such weekly bound Pb could be easily removed, both soil washing (ex situ) and soil flushing (in situ) techniques were evaluated for potential Pb remediation procedure. Particle size separation of soil into coarse (2.0-0.25 mm), medium (0.25-0.15 mm), and fine size (<0.15 mm) was conducted before initiating soil washing for comparing Pb removal efficiency in these fractions with the indigenous soil fraction. Using EDTA (2:1 mole to Pb) as a washing solution up to 85-95% of Pb was removed under the optimum conditions (retention time = 60 min), and liquid to solid ratio (L/S) at 5:1 for coarse fraction and 10:1 for smaller fraction. Pb could be removed from contaminated soil using EDTA extraction; however, the efficiency was higher in the coarse texture soil fraction. As a result particle size separation is recommended before application of the soil washing procedure. For smaller soil particle size fraction a series of extraction was needed for obtaining an adequate extraction efficiency. Three solvents tested as flushing solution showed 85, 84, and 74% of Pb was removed by EDTA (2:1 mole to Pb), 1M HNO3, and 0.2 M ammonium citrate, respectively after flushing with 20 pore volumes. The capacity of the three flushing solutions to remove Pb from the contaminated soil were ranked in the order: EDTA approximately 1 M HNO3 > 0.2 N ammonium citrate. However, in highly contaminated soil all solvent extract required several Pb leaching cycles. The flushing process using 1 M HNO3 increased soil acidity to extreme acid conditions (pH 2.0) resulting in adverse effects to physicochemical properties of the treated soil. In general, results showed three factors influenced Pb removal by the extraction techniques: (i) initial Pb concentrations, (ii) Pb partitioning within soil, and (iii) particle size of soil matrix.

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