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Mercury and other trace elements in soils affected by the mine tailing spill in Aznalcóllar (SW Spain)

AutorCabrera, Francisco ; Ariza, J.; Madejón, Paula ; Madejón, Engracia ; Murillo Carpio, José Manuel
Palabras claveSoil contamination
Trace elements
Fecha de publicación15-feb-2008
CitaciónScience of the Total Environment 390 (2-3): 311-322 (2008)
ResumenThe Aznalcóllar accident (28thApril 1998) occurred because the collapse of the tailing-damdike of the Aznalcóllar–Los Frailes mines. Soilswere affected by a slurry of acidic water loadedwith trace elements, finely divided metal sulphides, and materials used in the refining /floating process. Studies carried out before and after the soil restoration activities (sludge removal, amending, tilling, and afforestation) showed severe trace-element contamination (mainly As, Cd, Cu, Pb, Tl and Zn) in the superficial layer of the sludge-affected soils. Despite Hg being an important component of the Los Frailes ore and therefore of the contaminant sludge, data on Hg content of sludge-affected soils are scarce and sometimes controversial. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of the spill and of restoration measures on the Hg content of soils and how this related to other elements. Concentration of Hg immediately after the spill was 8-fold above background (0.061±0.012mgkg−1;mean±SD) at the surface (0–5 cm)and 3–4- fold greater in deeper layers (0–20; 0–50 cm). After the remediation measures, mean values of Hg and other elements (As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn) were very variable and remained above background values. These anomalies are due to the sludge left on the soil surface or buried during restoration operations, resulting in an irregular distribution of trace elements. The highest values for the lessmobile elements (up to 176 mg kg−1 As, 2.36 mg kg−1 Hg and 1556 mg kg−1 Pb) were observed in the area 15 km downstream of the tailings dam.
Descripción7 pages, 9 figures, 2 tables, 31 references. We wish to thank Mr. J.A. Diez de la Cortina for assistance with the maps. The authors thank Prof. N. Lepp for his helpful comments.
Versión del editorhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2007.10.002
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