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Metal Ion and Other Key Water Quality Constituent Attenuation in Soil Columns

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A set of soil columns was constructed to simulate discharge of disinfected tertiary treated wastewater to a river via nearby land application or indirect discharge. The system was primarily designed to observe the fate of metal ions and nutrients. The following three experiments were conducted: (1) flow through saturated soils only, which simulates indirect discharge where water is directly applied to groundwater; (2) flow through unsaturated soil followed by saturated flow, which simulates vadose then saturated zone transport; and (3) saturated flow only using ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid-metal chelates, which determined effects of metal organic complexes on metal mobility through the soil.

Metal ion attenuation was substantial but not complete in experiments 1 and 2 (removal: 68% Cu2+, 43% Ni2+, 98% Pb2+, and 96% Hg2+), which was somewhat contrary to modeling results. Cyanide attenuation was also monitored (92% removal). In experiment 3, lead attenuation was somewhat reduced (92% removal) and delayed (requiring additional residence time); copper attenuation was significantly reduced (38% removal) and delayed; and nickel concentrations were higher in the 28-day sample (>80 µg/L) than in the column feed water (58 µg/L). Near-complete denitrification and total phosphorus attenuation were observed. For the water quality constituents studied, unsaturated (vadose zone) transport did not appear to add additional benefit.

Keywords: copper; denitrification; ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid chelation; groundwater; lead; metal ion adsorption; nickel; subsurface fate and transport

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2012

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  • Water Environment Research® (WER®) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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