, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 95-99
Date: 02 Feb 2008

Evaluation of tests to assess the quality of mine-contaminated soils

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An acid metal-contaminated soil from the Aljustrel mining area (a pyrite mine located in SW Portugal in the Iberian Pyrite Belt) was subjected to chemical characterisation and total metal quantification (Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn). Water-soluble metals were determined and a sequential extraction procedure was used to investigate metal speciation. Two bioavailable metal fractions were determined: a mobile fraction and a mobilisable fraction. Soil ecotoxicity was studied using a battery of bioassays: plant growth test and seed germination with cress (Lepidium sativum L.), earthworm (Eisenia fetida) mortality, E. fetida avoidance behaviour, luminescent inhibition of Vibrio fischeri and Daphnia magna immobilisation. Although the total content of Cu, Zn and Pb in the soil was large (362, 245 and 1,250 mg/kg dry matter, respectively), these metals were mostly structurally bound (87% for Cu, 81% for Zn and 89% for Pb) and, therefore, scarcely bioavailable. Nonetheless, the D. magna immobilization test using soil leachate showed an EC50 (48 h) of 36.3% (v/v), and the luminescent inhibition of V. fischeri presented an EC20 (15 min) of 45.2% and an EC20 (30 min) of 10.7% (v/v), suggesting a considerable toxic effect. In the direct exposure bioassays, E. fetida avoided the mine soil at the highest concentrations (50%, 75% and 100% v/v). At the same soil concentrations, cress showed negligible growth. The results suggest the need to use a battery of toxicity tests, in conjunction with chemical methods, in order to assess the quality of mine-contaminated soils correctly.