Abstract

Leachate derived from unlined coal ash disposal facilities is one of the most significant anthropogenic sources of selenium to the environment. To establish a practical framework for predicting transport of selenium in ash leachate, sorption of Se(IV) and Se(VI) from 1 mM CaSO4 was measured for 18 soils obtained down-gradient from three ash landfill sites and evaluated with respect to several soil properties. Furthermore, soil attenuation from lab-generated ash leachate and the effect of Ca2+ and SO42− concentrations as well as pH on both Se(IV) and Se(VI) was quantified for a subset of soils. For both Se(IV) and Se(VI), pH combined with either percentage clay or dithionite-citrate-bicarbonate (DCB)-extractable Fe described >80% of the differences in sorption across all soils, yielding an easy approach for making initial predictions regarding site-specific selenium transport to sensitive water bodies. Se(IV) consistently exhibited an order of magnitude greater sorption than Se(VI). Selenium sorption was highest at lower pH values, with Se(IV) sorption decreasing at pH values above 6, whereas Se(VI) decreased over the entire pH range (2.5–10). Using these pH adsorption envelopes, the likely effect of ash leachate-induced changes in soil pore water pH with time on selenium attenuation by down gradient soils can be predicted. Selenium sorption increased with increasing Ca2+ concentrations while SO42− suppressed sorption well above enhancements by Ca2+. Soil attenuation of selenium from ash leachates agreed well with sorption measured from 1 mM CaSO4, indicating that 1 mM CaSO4 is a reasonable synthetic leachate for assessing selenium behavior at ash landfill sites.

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