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Properties of Several Fly Ash Materials in Relation to Use as Soil Amendments

Pathan, S. M., Aylmore, L. A. G., Colmer, T. D.
Journal of environmental quality 2003 v.32 no.2 pp. 687-693
calcium chloride, cation exchange capacity, field capacity, field experimentation, fly ash, horticulture, leaching, nutrient retention, pH, phosphorus, sandy soils, soil amendments, texture, toxicity, trace elements, water holding capacity, Queensland, Western Australia
Fly ash samples from five power stations in Western Australia and Queensland, and two soils used for horticulture in Western Australia, were evaluated for a series of physical and chemical properties. Soils were comprised primarily of coarse sand-sized particles, whereas most of the fly ashes were primarily fine sand- and silt-sized particles. Hydraulic conductivities in the fly ashes were 105- to 248-fold slower than in the soils. The water-holding capacities of fly ashes at “field capacity” were three times higher than those of the soils. Extractable P in the fly ashes (except Tarong and Callide) were 20- to 88-fold higher than in the soils. The pH showed considerable variation among the different sources of fly ash, with samples from Muja being the most acidic (pH = 3.8; 1:5 in CaCl₂ extract) and from Gladstone the most alkaline (pH = 9.9). The toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP) values indicate that the potential for release of trace elements from the fly ashes was well below regulatory levels. When applied at sufficient rates (e.g., to achieve 10% w/w in surface layers) to sandy soils, fly ash altered texture and increased water-holding capacity. Depending on the source of fly ash used, such amendments could also provide P and aid nutrient retention by increasing the phosphorus retention index (PRI) and/or cation exchange capacity (CEC). The considerable variability in physical and chemical properties among the fly ash samples evaluated in the present study supports the notion that field trials are essential to the future development of soil amendment strategies making use of any particular source of fly ash.