Nutrient and trace element leaching following mine reclamation with biosolids

Richard Stehouwer, Rick L. Day, Kirsten E. Macneal

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51 Scopus citations


Mine reclamation with biosolids increases revegetation success but nutrient addition well in excess of vegetation requirements has the potential to increase leaching of NO3 and other biosolids constituents. A 3-yr water quality monitoring study was conducted on a Pennsylvania mine site reclaimed with biosolids applied at the maximum permitted and standard loading rate of 134 Mg ha-1. Zero-tension lysimeters were installed at 1-m depth 1 yr before reclamation: three in the biosolids application area, one in a control area (no biosolids). Before reclamation, all water samples had pH in the range 4.7 to 6.2, acidity <20 mg L-1, and very low levels of all other measured parameters. Following reclamation, percolate water in the biosolids-treated area had lower pH and greater acidity than the control area. Acidity was greatest during the first winter following biosolids application, decreased during the spring, and showed a similar pattern but with much smaller concentrations the second year. Maximum first-year leachate NO3 concentrations were ∼300 mg L-1 and half as large the second year. Estimated inorganic N leaching loss during the first 2 yr after biosolids application was 2327 kg N ha-1. Aluminum, Mn, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn followed similar leaching patterns as did acidity, and their mobilization appeared to be the result of the increased acidity. These results indicate that large applications of low-C/N-ratio biosolids could negatively impact area water quality and that biosolids reclamation practices should be modified to reduce this possibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1118-1126
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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