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J Air Waste Manag Assoc. 2011 Nov;61(11):1102-14.

Nondestructive characterization of municipal-solid-waste-contaminated surface soil by energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence and low-Z (atomic number) particle electron probe X-ray microanalysis.

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Nuclear and Atomic Physics Division, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, India.


The long-term environmental impact of municipal solid waste (MSW) landfilling is still under investigation due to the lack of detailed characterization studies. A MSW landfill site, popularly known as Dhapa, in the eastern fringe of the metropolis of Kolkata, India, is the subject of present study. A vast area of Dhapa, adjoining the current core MSW dump site and evolving from the raw MSW dumping in the past, is presently used for the cultivation of vegetables. The inorganic chemical characteristics of the MSW-contaminated Dhapa surface soil (covering a 2-km stretch of the area) along with a natural composite (geogenic) soil sample (from a small countryside farm), for comparison, were investigated using two complementary nondestructive analytical techniques, energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) for bulk analysis and low-Z (atomic number) particle electron probe X-ray microanalysis (low-Z particle EPMA) for single-particle analysis. The bulk concentrations of K, Rb, and Zr remain almost unchanged in all the soil samples. The Dhapa soil is found to be polluted with heavy metals such as Cu, Zn, and Pb (highly elevated) and Ti, Cr, Mn, Fe, Ni, and Sr (moderately elevated), compared to the natural countryside soil. These high bulk concentration levels of heavy metals were compared with the Ecological Soil Screening Levels for these elements (U.S. Environment Protection Agency) to assess the potential risk on the immediate biotic environment. Low-Z particle EPMA results showed that the aluminosilicate-containing particles were the most abundant, followed by SiO2, CaCO3-containing, and carbonaceous particles in the Dhapa samples, whereas in the countryside sample only aluminosilicate-containing and SiO2 particles were observed. The mineral particles encountered in the countryside sample are solely of geogenic origin, whereas those from the Dhapa samples seem to have evolved from a mixture of raw dumped MSW, urban dust, and other contributing factors such as wind, precipitation, weather patterns, farming, and water logging, resulting in their diverse chemical compositions and the abundant observation of carbonaceous species. Particles containing C and P were more abundant in the Dhapa samples than in the countryside soil sample, suggesting that MSW-contaminated soils are more fertile. However, the levels of particles containing potentially toxic heavy metals such as Cr, Mn, Ni, Cu, Zn, and/or Pb in the Dhapa samples were significant, corroborated by their high bulk concentration levels (EDXRF), causing deep concern for the immediate environment and contamination of the food chain through food crops.

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