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Assessment of the ecotoxicity of phytotreatment substrate soil as landfill cover material for in-situ leachate management

Garbo, Francesco, Pivato, Alberto, Manachini, Barbara, Moretto, Carlo Giovanni, Lavagnolo, Maria Cristina
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.231 pp. 289-296
Caenorhabditis elegans, Eisenia fetida, European Union, Folsomia candida, Helianthus annuus, Lepidium sativum, Steinernema carpocapsae, backfilling, bioassays, biodiesel, bioethanol, cost effectiveness, earthworms, ecotoxicology, energy crops, landfills, laws and regulations, leachates, liquids, soil, soil pollution, soil quality, Italy
Phytotreatment capping in closed landfills is a promising, cost-effective, in situ option for sustainable leachate treatment and might be synergistically coupled with energy crops to produce renewable energy (e.g.: biodiesel or bioethanol). This study proposes to use 0.30 m of soil as growing substrate for plants cultivated on the temporary cover of closed landfills. Once the leachate phytotreatment process is no longer required, 0.70 m of the same soil would be added to attain the final top cover configuration. This solution would entail saving the costs of excavation and backfilling. However, worsening of the initial soil quality due to potential contaminant transfer from the liquid to the solid matrix must be avoided because EU legislation (such as that in Italy) fixes concentration limits for contaminants in soil. In this research, samples of soil used as substrate in a lab-scale leachate phytotreatment test with sunflowers were analysed to provide chemical characterization before, during, and at the end of the experiment. The results showed that the phytotreatment activity did not increase initial contaminant concentrations. These results are reinforced by those from ecotoxicological bioassays in which Eisenia fetida (earthworms), Lepidium sativum (cress), Folsomia candida (collembola), and Caenorhabditis elegans and Steinernema carpocapsae (nematodes) were used. It was observed that, by the end of the experiment, the substrate soil did not affect the earthworms, collembola and nematode behaviour, or the growth of cress.