Characterization and mobility of arsenic and heavy metalsinsoils polluted by the destruction of arsenic-containingshells from the Great War

Abstract : Destruction of chemical munitions from World War I has caused extensive local top soil contamination by arsenic and heavy metals. The biogeochemical behavior of toxic elements is poorly documented in this type of environment. Four soils were sampled presenting different levels of contamination. The range of As concentrations in the samples was 1937–72,820 mg/kg. Concentrations of Zn, Cu and Pb reached 90,190 mg/kg, 9113 mg/kg and 5777 mg/kg, respectively. The high clay content of the subsoil and large amounts of charcoal from the use of firewood during the burning process constitute an ample reservoir of metals and As-binding materials. However, SEM–EDS observations showed different forms of association for metals and As. In metal-rich grains, several phases were identified: crystalline phases, where arsenate secondary minerals were detected, and an amorphous phase rich in Fe, Zn, Cu, and As. The secondary arsenate minerals, identified by XRD, were adamite and olivenite (zinc and copper arsenates, respectively) and two pharmacosiderites. The amorphous material was the principal carrier of As and metals in the central part of the site. This singular mineral assemblage probably resulted from the heat treatment of arsenic-containing shells. Microbial characterization included total cell counts, respiration, and determination of As(III)-oxidizing activities. Results showed the presence of microorganisms actively contributing to metabolism of carbon and arsenic, even in the most polluted soil, thereby influencing the fate of bioavailable As on the site. However, the mobility of As correlated mainly with the availability of iron sinks.
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Hugues Thouin, Lydie Le Forestier, Pascale Gautret, Daniel Hube, Valérie Laperche, et al.. Characterization and mobility of arsenic and heavy metalsinsoils polluted by the destruction of arsenic-containingshells from the Great War. Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2016, 550, pp.658-669. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.01.111⟩. ⟨insu-01267232⟩

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