Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 37, Issue 3–4, pp 293–307 | Cite as

Evaluating soluble toxicants in contaminated soils

  • J. R. Pratt
  • P. V. McCormick
  • K. W. Pontasch
  • J. CairnsJr.


Complex mixtures of water soluble materials from contaminated soils can move into groundwater and surface water by leaching, percolation, and runoff. We evaluated the potential toxicity of leachable materials from seven soils. Five soil samples were obtained at designated toxic or hazardous waste sites, and two additional soils samples were obtained from a coal storage area and from an agricultural field. Acidified tap water (pH 4.5) was used to extract toxic materials from elution columns filled with soil samples. Extracts were used as complex mixtures to conduct acute toxicity tests using Daphnia and chronic effects tests using aquatic microcosms. Three classes of effects were observed. Three soil leachates showed acute and chronic toxicity at less than 3% leachate. Two of these soils were contaminated by materials used in wood preserving, and the third soil was contaminated with heavy metals and acid. Two soils showed moderate acute toxicity but no chronic toxicity in microcosm tests. One of these soils was contaminated with low levels of chromium while the other soil was from a coal storage area. The remaining two soil samples showed no toxicity in either acute or chronic toxicity tests. One of these soils was from a reference agricultural field while the other soil was contaminated with solvents. The failure to detect toxicity in the solvent contaminated sample was attributed to the hydrophobicity of the toxicity materials. Results of these toxic screenings are in the same range as leachate toxicities estimated using other methods, although other methods use extraction materials that may interfere with some biological tests. Toxicological evaluations of materials from suspected contaminated soil are recommended for prioritizing clean up efforts at waste sites and for determining if toxic materials and contaminated soils have been effectively removed.


Soil Sample Toxicity Test Chronic Toxicity Acute Toxicity Test Toxic Material 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. R. Pratt
    • 1
  • P. V. McCormick
    • 1
  • K. W. Pontasch
    • 1
  • J. CairnsJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.University Center for Environmental Studies and Department of BiologyVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgUSA

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