Biosolid colloid-mediated transport of copper, zinc, and lead in waste-amended soils

A. D. Karathanasis, D. M.C. Johnson, C. J. Matocha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Increasing land applications of biosolid wastes as soil amendments have raised concerns about potential toxic effects of associated metals on the environment. This study investigated the ability of biosolid colloids to transport metals associated with organic waste amendments through subsurface soil environments with leaching experiments involving undisturbed soil monoliths. Biosolid colloids were fractionated from a lime-stabilized, an aerobically digested, and a poultry manure organic waste and applied onto the monoliths at a rate of 0.7 cm/h. Eluents were monitored for Cu, Zn, Pb, and colloid concentrations over 16 to 24 pore volumes of leaching. Mass-balance calculations indicated significantly higher (up to 77 times) metal elutions in association with the biosolid colloids in both total and soluble fractions over the control treatments. Eluted metal loads varied with metal, colloid, and soil type, following the sequences Zn = Cu > Pb, and ADB > PMB > LSB colloids. Colloid and metal elution was enhanced by decreasing pH and colloid size, and increasing soil macroporosity and organic matter content. Breakthrough curves were mostly irregular, showing several maxima and minima as a result of preferential macropore flow and multiple clogging and flushing cycles. Soil- and colloid-metal sorption affinities were not reliable predictors of metal attenuation/elution loads, underscoring the dynamic nature of transport processes. The findings demonstrate the important role of biosolid colloids as contaminant carriers and the significant risk they pose, if unaccounted, for soil and ground water contamination in areas receiving heavy applications of biosolid waste amendments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1153-1164
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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