Main content area

Soil structure and flow rate-controlled molybdate, arsenate and chromium(III) transport through field columns

Akhtar, Mohammad Saleem, Stüben, Doris, Norra, Stefan, Memon, Mehrunisa
Geoderma 2011 v.161 no.3-4 pp. 126-137
Hapludalfs, Udorthents, X-radiation, chromium, clay, dyes, leaching, macropore flow, macropores, pH, porosity, rain, silt, silty clay soils, soil water, solutes, tomography, tracer techniques, unsaturated flow, Germany
Preferential flow in soil causes rapid movement of chemicals and contamination at the tile-line level. Soil structure and flow rate effect on transport velocity of MoO₄ ²⁻, H₂AsO₄ ⁻¹, and Cr⁺³ was assessed for three soils differing in vadose structure. Triplicate, 50cm long, 35cm diameter field soil columns of Lamellic Hapludalf, Typic Udorthent, Typic Hapludalf from southwestern Germany were obtained. The metals solute prepared in 3.5mM LiCl was applied as pulse, and flushed with synthetic rainwater of pH 5.5 at constant flow rates generated by +10, −10, and −40mm water heads at the column surface. The tracers' breakthrough data were fitted to a convective–dispersive flow equation with mobile and immobile soil water partition. Additionally, blue dye was rained on site, and X-ray tomography of one representative column from each soil was carried out to identify preferential flow paths in the field soils. Lamellic Hapludalf (sandy loam) had a dominantly massive structure, and blue dye flowed as vertical fingers. Typic Udorthent (silt loam) had well-connected macropores, and dye moved as macropore flow with radial diffusion. Typic Hapludalf (silty clay) had well-connected pores throughout the profile, and dye moved the deepest with smallest dyed area. Chloride moved sampling 0.30 to 0.33 fraction of porosity in the massive soil irrespective of flow rate; and depending on flow rate, it moved through only 0.05 to 0.15 fraction of porosity in the structured silt loam/silty clay soil columns. MoO₄ ²⁻, H₂AsO₄ ⁻¹ and Cr⁺³ leached as fast as Cl⁻¹ under ponded flow and with large retardation under unsaturated flow suggesting macropore flow of the adsorbing solute in the well-structured soils. The massive soil effectively retained H₂AsO₄ ⁻¹ and Cr⁺³ but allowed MoO₄ ⁻² to leach at all the flow rates. Retardations of the absorbing tracers were in the order of Cr⁺³>H₂AsO₄ ⁻¹>MoO₄ ⁻²>Li⁺¹. Depending on soil structure, the effective porosity and retardation increased, and dispersion decreased with reduced flow rate. The study concludes that strongly graded, coarse to medium angular/prismatic soil peds allow adsorbing solute to leach at reduced flow rate, and the field description of soil structure helps discern areas where preferential flow can potentially cause subsoil contamination.