Assessing the Use of Magnetic Methods to Monitor Vertical Migration of Metal Pollutants in Soil
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In order to assess the use of magnetic methods to study vertical migration behavior of metal pollutants in natural soils, a controlled experiment was performed near Belle River, Ontario, Canada. The soil at the site consists primarily of clay-rich glacial till overlain by localized alluvium. Twenty PVC tubes (16″ × 8″) were inserted vertically into the ground as test capsules. Magnetite powder (<5 μm) was distributed on the surface of the soil inside ten tubes (10 grams/tube) to simulate anthropogenic contamination, while the other ten were used as controls. While the surficial magnetic susceptibility (MS) remained fairly stable in controls, decreases of 15–60% were observed in contaminated soil tubes. Post-test MS profiles from soil cores in contaminated tubes show that the magnetic signal is strongest at depths between 4 and 6 cm. Magnetic measurements and chemical analysis (using SEM-EDS) on soil layers with enhanced magnetic signal indicate the presence of iron containing particles, likely magnetite. Overall, the results suggest that magnetite powder migrated vertically downwards at a rate of ∼14 cm/year over the four month period, probably as a result of rainwater infiltration. Such magnetic methods and chemical analytical techniques are useful in the investigation of migration of metal pollutants and the potential depth of soil contamination.
KeywordsPollutant Soil contamination Migration Magnetic susceptibility
The authors acknowledge a Premier’s Research Excellence Award and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council grant to Dr. Maria T. Cioppa. We would also like to thank Dr. Walter and Mrs. Laura Cassidy who kindly lent their property for this research, and S. Holland, E. Gallaway, and S. Joshi for the field assistance.
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