Industrial byproducts for the soil stabilization of trace elements and per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs)

By Yaxin Zhang, Gerard Cornelissen, Ludovica Silvani, Valentina Zivanovic, Andreas Botnen Smebye, Erlend Sørmo, Gorm Thune, and Gudny Okkenhaug
Sci Total Environ
January 25, 2022
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153188

The present work was the first exploration of the use of industrial byproducts from iron and titanium processing as sorbents for the stabilization of soil contamination. The main aim was to test slag waste and iron-rich charred fossil coal ("Fe-char"), as sorbents for per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs), as well as lead (Pb) and antimony (Sb), in four soils from a firefighting training area (PFASs) and a shooting range (Pb and Sb). Adding slag (10-20%) to shooting range soils decreased the leaching of Pb and Sb up to 50-90%. Fe-char amendment to these soils resulted in a moderate reduction in Sb leaching (20-70%) and a slightly stronger effect on Pb (40-50%). The sorption is most likely explained by the presence of Fe oxyhydroxides. These are present in the highest concentrations in the slag, probably resulting in more effective metal binding to the slag than to the Fe-char. Fe-char but not slag proved to be a strong sorbent for PFASs (reducing PFAS leaching from the soil by up to 99.7%) in soil containing low total organic carbon (TOC; 1.2%) but not in high-TOC soil (34%). The sorption coefficient KD for Fe-char was high, in the range of 104.3 to 106.5 L/kg at 1 ng/L in the low-TOC soil. The KD value increased with increasing perfluorocarbon chain length, exceeding PFAS sorption to biochar in the low ng/L concentration range. This result indicates that the mechanism behind the strong PFAS sorption to Fe-char was mainly van der Waals dispersive interactions between the hydrophobic PFAS-chain and the aromatic π-electron systems on nanopore walls within the Fe-char matrix. Overall, this study indicates that industrial byproducts can provide sustainable and cost-effective materials for soil remediation. However, the sorbent needs to be tailored to the type of soil and type of contamination.


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