Effect of water table variations and input of natural organic matter on the cycles of C and N, and mobility of As, Zn and Cu from a soil impacted by the burning of chemical warfare agents: A mesocosm study

Abstract : A mesocosm study was conducted to assess the impact of water saturation episodes and of the input of bioavailable organic matter on the biogeochemical cycles of C and N, and on the behavior of metal(loid)s in a soil highly contaminated by the destruction of arsenical shells. An instrumented mesocosm was filled with contaminated soil taken from the “Place-à-Gaz” site. Four cycles of dry and wet periods of about one month were simulated for 276 days. After two dry/wet cycles, organic litter sampled on the site was added above the topsoil. The nitrogen cycle was the most impacted by the wet/dry cycles, as evidenced by a denitrification microbial process in the saturated level. The concentrations of the two most mobile pollutants, Zn and As, in the soil water and in the mesocosm leachate were, respectively, in the 0.3–1.6 mM and 20–110 μM ranges. After 8 months of experiment, about 83 g·m− 3 of Zn and 3.5 g·m− 3 of As were leached from the soil. These important quantities represent < 1% of the solid stock of this contaminant. Dry/wet cycles had no major effect on Zn mobility. However, soil saturation induced the immobilization of As by trapping As V but enhanced As III mobility. These phenomena were amplified by the presence of bioavailable organic matter. The study showed that the natural deposition of forest organic litter allowed a part of the soil's biological function to be restored but did not immobilize all the Zn and As, and even contributed to transport of As III to the surrounding environment. The main hazard of this type of site, contaminated by organo-arsenic chemical weapons, is the constitution of a stock of As that may leach into the surrounding environment for several hundred years.
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Hugues Thouin, Fabienne Battaglia-Brunet, Pascale Gautret, Lydie Le Forestier, Dominique Breeze, et al.. Effect of water table variations and input of natural organic matter on the cycles of C and N, and mobility of As, Zn and Cu from a soil impacted by the burning of chemical warfare agents: A mesocosm study. Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2017, 595, pp.279 - 293. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.03.218⟩. ⟨insu-01508666⟩

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