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Improvement of soil quality after “alperujo” compost application to two contaminated soils characterised by differing heavy metal solubility

Alburquerque, J.A., de la Fuente, C., Bernal, M.P.
Journal of environmental management 2011 v.92 no.3 pp. 733-741
MSW composts, acid soils, application rate, byproducts, compost quality, fractionation, heavy metals, immobilization in soil, land restoration, liming, microbial biomass, mineral fertilizers, mineralization, nitrification, nutrient availability, nutrients, olive oil, pH, phytoremediation, polluted soils, sludge, soil analysis, soil fertility, soil microorganisms, soil quality, soil remediation, soil texture, soil toxicity, solubility, trace elements
Reclamation of trace element polluted soils often requires the improvement of the soil quality by using appropriate organic amendments. Low quality compost from municipal solid waste has been tested for reclamation of soils, but these materials can provide high amounts of heavy metals. Therefore, a high-quality compost, with low levels of heavy metals, produced from the main by-product of the Spanish olive oil extraction industry (“alperujo”) was evaluated for remediation of soils affected by a pyritic mine sludge. Two contaminated soils were selected from the same area: they were characterised by differing pH values (4.6 and 7.3) and total metal concentrations, which greatly affected the fractionation of the metals. Compost was applied to soil at two rates (equivalent to 48 and 72Tmha⁻¹) and compared with an inorganic fertiliser treatment. Compost acted as an available nutrient source (C, N and P) and showed a low mineralisation rate, suggesting a slow release of nutrients and thus favouring long term soil fertility. In addition, the liming effect of the compost led to a significant reduction of toxicity for soil microorganisms in the acidic soil and immobilisation of soil heavy metals (especially Mn and Zn), resulting in a clear increase in both soil microbial biomass and nitrification. Such positive effects were clearly greater than those provoked by the mineral fertiliser even at the lowest compost application rate, which indicates that this type of compost can be very useful for bioremediation programmes (reclamation and revegetation of polluted soils) based on phytostabilisation strategies.