Final Report: Reducing Heavy Metal Availability to Perennial Grasses and Row-Crops Grown on Contaminated Soils and Mine Spoils

EPA Grant Number: R825549C029
Subproject: this is subproject number 029 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R825549
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: HSRC (1989) - Great Plains/Rocky Mountain HSRC
Center Director: Erickson, Larry E.
Title: Reducing Heavy Metal Availability to Perennial Grasses and Row-Crops Grown on Contaminated Soils and Mine Spoils
Investigators: Pierzynski, G. M. , Schwab, Arthur Paul
Institution: Kansas State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: October 22, 1990 through February 21, 1993
Project Amount: Refer to main center abstract for funding details.
RFA: Hazardous Substance Research Centers - HSRC (1989) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Heavy Metal Contamination of Soil/Water , Land and Waste Management


The primary objectives of this project were to establish the relative tolerance of various perennial grasses and cover crops adapted to the climate of southeast Kansas to high concentrations of heavy metals, and to investigate the effectiveness of various soil amendments in reducing the plant availability of heavy metals in contaminated soils and mine spoils.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

The soils in southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri, and northeast Oklahoma are contaminated with heavy metals because of past mining activities. Reclamation efforts aimed at establishing vegetation are needed. Organic amendments, pH adjustments, increased cation exchange capacity, soluble phosphorous additions, and dilution with uncontaminated soil are potential methods to improve vegetation. Metal-tolerant grass species can be seeded, also.

Greenhouse studies have been conducted on soil and mine spoil material from selected sites. Chemical, physical, and mineralogical characterization of the soil was carried out to determine plant nutrient status, pH, organic matter, lime requirements, particle size analysis, clay mineralogy, total metal content, and chelate extractable metals. Experiments with amended soils and controls were carried out with several plant species.

Results can be summarized in the general categories of characterization, revegetation of chat, and reducing metal bioavailability to row-crops.
Characterization: Numerous samples of soils and mine spoil materials were collected in southeast Kansas and characterized according to chemical properties and mineralogy. This characterization data was presented at the 1991 Hazardous Substance Research Conference for USEPA Regions 7 and 8. The primary limitation to plant growth was determined to be Zn toxicity. Seven plant species were found growing in or near heavy-metal contamination sites. Their common names are switchgrass, broomweed, sedges, common ragweed, bulrush, indiangrass and hemp dogbane. It is possible that these species are tolerant to high soil concentrations of metals.

Revegetation of chat: Chat is a rock waste material that is produced during the initial processing of the ores. Numerous chat piles occur throughout the Tri-State Mining region. As the fine particles selectively erode away from the piles, larger and larger areas are impacted by the heavy metals. Wind-blown dust is also the primary means of exposure for humans to Pb and Cd in these areas. A vegetative cover would prevent or slow the erosion process.

Blue grama grass, switchgrass, little bluestem, indiangrass, big blustem, tall fescue, KY31 tall fescue, Buffalograss, hairy vetch, sideouts grama, smooth bromegrass, red fescue and crown vetch were evaluated for their ability to grow in both unamended chat and chat amended with the equivalent of 2000 kg/ha of a sewage sludge/cement kiln dust combination. Big bluestem exhibited the best growth although none of the species had acceptable growth.

Reducing metal bioavailability to row-crops:

Cultivated areas within the floodplains of rivers that drain the mined areas receive contaminated sediments during flooding events. Often such soils receive Zn doses high enough to inhibit the growth of some row-crop species. There is also concern regarding food-chain transfer of Cd and Pb. Two greenhouse studies were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of various soil amendments or combinations of soil amendments on reducing heavy-metal bioavailability to soybeans.
The first study compared 1120 kg CaCO3 equivalent/ha, 5000 kg/ha cattle manure, 5000 kg/ha poultry manure, 2000 kg/ha of N-Viro soil (cement kiln dust plus sewage sludge), 100 mg P/kg as K2HPO4, 100 mg P/kg as (NH4)2 HPO4, and a control. The CaC03, cattle manure and N-Viro treatments were the most effective in increasing soybean yields, reducing Zn, Cd and Pb concentrations in soybean tissue and reducing bioavailability Zn concentrations in the soil, as measured with a chemical fractionation procedure.

The second study looked at a factorial arrangement of CaCO3 rate (0, 1.12 and 2.24 Mg/ha) and cattle manure (0, 5 and 10 Mg/ha) to see if a combination of amendments would be more effective than a single amendment. Overall, the addition of CaCO3 was the most effective treatment as indicated by reductions in bioavailable Zn in the soil, increased soybean yields and decreases in tissue metal concentrations. The addition of cattle manure produced similar effects, although the relative differences were not as great as those for limestone. The addition of both materials produced significantly higher soybean yields as compared to either material alone for one harvest; however, in general, the combination of both amendments did not produce additional reductions in metal bioavailability as compared to limestone alone.

The studies on reducing metal bioavailability to row-crops were the most successful aspect of the project. Scientifically, a refereed publication was produced that has been well received by the scientific community. From a practical viewpoint, some realistic recommendations can be made to land owners who have soils with excessive Zn levels.

The results have been presented at professional meetings and workshops. They have also been communicated to other interested parties.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other subproject views: All 3 publications 1 publications in selected types All 1 journal articles
Other center views: All 904 publications 230 publications in selected types All 182 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Pierzynski GM, Schwab AP. Bioavailability of zinc, cadmium, and lead in a metal-contaminated alluvial soil. Journal of Environmental Quality 1993;22(2):247-254. R825549C029 (Final)
not available

Supplemental Keywords:

heavy metals, soil amendments, plant tolerance, mine spoils., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Waste, Water, Contaminated Sediments, Remediation, Environmental Chemistry, Geochemistry, Chemistry, State, Analytical Chemistry, Hazardous Waste, Ecology and Ecosystems, Hazardous, EPA Region, fate and transport, sediment treatment, contaminant transport, fate and transport , soil and groundwater remediation, acid mine drainage, contaminated sediment, grasses, contaminated soil, groundwater remediation, Region 7, bioremediation of soils, Region 8, Kansas (KS), contaminated groundwater, hazardous wate, Missouri (MO), heavy metal contamination, phytoremediation, Oklahoma (OK), mining waste, groundwater, heavy metals, mining wastes, bioremediation

Relevant Websites: Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 1991
  • 1992

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R825549    HSRC (1989) - Great Plains/Rocky Mountain HSRC

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R825549C006 Fate of Trichloroethylene (TCE) in Plant/Soil Systems
    R825549C007 Experimental Study of Stabilization/Solidification of Hazardous Wastes
    R825549C008 Modeling Dissolved Oxygen, Nitrate and Pesticide Contamination in the Subsurface Environment
    R825549C009 Vadose Zone Decontamination by Air Venting
    R825549C010 Thermochemical Treatment of Hazardous Wastes
    R825549C011 Development, Characterization and Evaluation of Adsorbent Regeneration Processes for Treament of Hazardous Waste
    R825549C012 Computer Method to Estimate Safe Level Water Quality Concentrations for Organic Chemicals
    R825549C013 Removal of Nitrogenous Pesticides from Rural Well-Water Supplies by Enzymatic Ozonation Process
    R825549C014 The Characterization and Treatment of Hazardous Materials from Metal/Mineral Processing Wastes
    R825549C015 Adsorption of Hazardous Substances onto Soil Constituents
    R825549C016 Reclamation of Metal and Mining Contaminated Superfund Sites using Sewage Sludge/Fly Ash Amendment
    R825549C017 Metal Recovery and Reuse Using an Integrated Vermiculite Ion Exchange - Acid Recovery System
    R825549C018 Removal of Heavy Metals from Hazardous Wastes by Protein Complexation for their Ultimate Recovery and Reuse
    R825549C019 Development of In-situ Biodegradation Technology
    R825549C020 Migration and Biodegradation of Pentachlorophenol in Soil Environment
    R825549C021 Deep-Rooted Poplar Trees as an Innovative Treatment Technology for Pesticide and Toxic Organics Removal from Soil and Groundwater
    R825549C022 In-situ Soil and Aquifer Decontaminaiton using Hydrogen Peroxide and Fenton's Reagent
    R825549C023 Simulation of Three-Dimensional Transport of Hazardous Chemicals in Heterogeneous Soil Cores Using X-ray Computed Tomography
    R825549C024 The Response of Natural Groundwater Bacteria to Groundwater Contamination by Gasoline in a Karst Region
    R825549C025 An Electrochemical Method for Acid Mine Drainage Remediation and Metals Recovery
    R825549C026 Sulfide Size and Morphology Identificaiton for Remediation of Acid Producing Mine Wastes
    R825549C027 Heavy Metals Removal from Dilute Aqueous Solutions using Biopolymers
    R825549C028 Neutron Activation Analysis for Heavy Metal Contaminants in the Environment
    R825549C029 Reducing Heavy Metal Availability to Perennial Grasses and Row-Crops Grown on Contaminated Soils and Mine Spoils
    R825549C030 Alachlor and Atrazine Losses from Runoff and Erosion in the Blue River Basin
    R825549C031 Biodetoxification of Mixed Solid and Hazardous Wastes by Staged Anaerobic Fermentation Conducted at Separate Redox and pH Environments
    R825549C032 Time Dependent Movement of Dioxin and Related Compounds in Soil
    R825549C033 Impact of Soil Microflora on Revegetation Efforts in Southeast Kansas
    R825549C034 Modeling the use of Plants in Remediation of Soil and Groundwater Contaminated by Hazardous Organic Substances
    R825549C035 Development of Electrochemical Processes for Improved Treatment of Lead Wastes
    R825549C036 Innovative Treatment and Bank Stabilization of Metals-Contaminated Soils and Tailings along Whitewood Creek, South Dakota
    R825549C037 Formation and Transformation of Pesticide Degradation Products Under Various Electron Acceptor Conditions
    R825549C038 The Effect of Redox Conditions on Transformations of Carbon Tetrachloride
    R825549C039 Remediation of Soil Contaminated with an Organic Phase
    R825549C040 Intelligent Process Design and Control for the Minimization of Waste Production and Treatment of Hazardous Waste
    R825549C041 Heavy Metals Removal from Contaminated Water Solutions
    R825549C042 Metals Soil Pollution and Vegetative Remediation
    R825549C043 Fate and Transport of Munitions Residues in Contaminated Soil
    R825549C044 The Role of Metallic Iron in the Biotransformation of Chlorinated Xenobiotics
    R825549C045 Use of Vegetation to Enhance Bioremediation of Surface Soils Contaminated with Pesticide Wastes
    R825549C046 Fate and Transport of Heavy Metals and Radionuclides in Soil: The Impacts of Vegetation
    R825549C047 Vegetative Interceptor Zones for Containment of Heavy Metal Pollutants
    R825549C048 Acid-Producing Metalliferous Waste Reclamation by Material Reprocessing and Vegetative Stabilization
    R825549C049 Laboratory and Field Evaluation of Upward Mobilization and Photodegradation of Polychlorinated Dibenzo-P-Dioxins and Furans in Soil
    R825549C050 Evaluation of Biosparging Performance and Process Fundamentals for Site Remediation
    R825549C051 Field Scale Bioremediation: Relationship of Parent Compound Disappearance to Humification, Mineralization, Leaching, Volatilization of Transformaiton Intermediates
    R825549C052 Chelating Extraction of Heavy Metals from Contaminated Soils
    R825549C053 Application of Anaerobic and Multiple-Electron-Acceptor Bioremediation to Chlorinated Aliphatic Subsurface Contamination
    R825549C054 Application of PGNAA Remote Sensing Methods to Real-Time, Non-Intrusive Determination of Contaminant Profiles in Soils
    R825549C055 Design and Development of an Innovative Industrial Scale Process to Economically Treat Waste Zinc Residues
    R825549C056 Remediation of Soils Contaminated with Wood-Treatment Chemicals (PCP and Creosote)
    R825549C057 Effects of Surfactants on the Bioavailability and Biodegradation of Contaminants in Soils
    R825549C058 Contaminant Binding to the Humin Fraction of Soil Organic Matter
    R825549C059 Identifying Ground-Water Threats from Improperly Abandoned Boreholes
    R825549C060 Uptake of BTEX Compounds by Hybrid Poplar Trees in Hazardous Waste Remediation
    R825549C061 Biofilm Barriers for Waste Containment
    R825549C062 Plant Assisted Remediation of Soil and Groundwater Contaminated by Hazardous Organic Substances: Experimental and Modeling Studies
    R825549C063 Extension of Laboratory Validated Treatment and Remediation Technologies to Field Problems in Aquifer Soil and Water Contamination by Organic Waste Chemicals