Assessment of Phytostabilization Success in Metalliferous Acid Mine Tailings

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Yadi Wang, Robert A Root, Corin Hammond, Mary Kay Amistadi, Raina M Maier and Jon Chorover, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States
Legacy mine tailings are a significant source of metal(loid)s due to wind and water erosion, especially in the arid southwest, and exposure to fugative dusts presents a health risk to surrounding populations. Compost assisted phytostabilization has been implemented to reduce off site emissions at the Iron King Mine U.S. Superfund Site in central Arizona, concurrent with a greenhouse mesocosm study for detailed study of subsurface mechanisms. Quantification of plant available toxic metal(loid)s in the amended tailings was accessed with a targeted single extraction of diethylenetriaminepentaactic acid (DTPA).

Greenhouse mesocosms (1m dia, 0.4 m deep), run in triplicate, mimicked field treatments with: i) tailings only control (TO), ii) tailings plus 15 wt% compost (TC), iii) TC + quailbush seeds (TCA), and iv) TC + buffalo grass seeds (TCB). Core samples collected at 3-month intervals for 1 year were dissected by depth (10 cm each) for analysis. DTPA results indicated that compost treated samples decreased plant availability of Al, As, Cd, Cu, Fe, and Pb but increased Mn and Zn compared with TO. TCB decreased plant available metal(loid)s at all depths, whereas TCA plant available Al, As, Cd, Cu, Fe, Mn and Zn increased in the deeper 20-30cm and 30-40 cm relative to TCB. Samples from the greenhouse were compared to tailings from both the field site and tailings impacted soils used to grow vegetables.

Mineral transformations and metal complexation, in the pre- and post-extracted tailings were analyzed by synchrotron transmission XRD and FTIR spectroscopy. The temporal change in plant available metal(loid)s in response to phytostabilization indicates mineralogical alteration that improves soil quality by reducing plant available metal(loid)s. These results will aid in the understanding and efficacy of phytostabilization as a means of remediating and reducing toxicity on mine tailings as well as providing information on health risk management in the region.