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Dry flue gas desulfurization by-product application effects on plant uptake and soil storage changes in a managed grassland

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Environmental regulations mandate that sulfur dioxide (SO2) be removed from the flue gases of coal-fired power plants, which results in the generation of flue gas desulfurization (FGD) by-products. These FGD by-products may be a viable soil amendment, but the large amounts of trace elements contained in FGD by-products are potentially concerning. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of land application of a high-Ca dry FGD (DFGD) by-product on trace elements in aboveground biomass and soil. A high-Ca DFGD by-product was applied once at a rate of 9 Mg ha−1 on May 18, 2015 to small plots with mixed-grass vegetation. Soil and biomass were sampled prior to application and several times thereafter. Aboveground dry matter and tissue As, Co, Cr, Hg, Se, U, and V concentrations increased (P < 0.05) following application, but did not differ (P > 0.05) from pre-application levels or the unamended control within 3 to 6 months of application. Soil pH in the amended treatment 6 months after application was greater (P < 0.05) than in the unamended control. Soil Ca, S, and Na contents also increased (P < 0.05), following by-product application compared to the unamended control. High-Ca DFGD by-products appear to be useful as a soil amendment, but cause at least a temporary increase in tissue concentrations of trace elements, which may be problematic for animal grazing situations.

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This study was funded by a grant from the Arkansas Water Resources Center. Additional information provided by Mark Cantrell, from southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), was invaluable. Field and laboratory assistance provided by Martin Striefler Jr., Benjamin Chapin, and Casey Rector is greatly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Jason R. Burgess-Conforti.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Burgess-Conforti, J.R., Brye, K.R., Miller, D.M. et al. Dry flue gas desulfurization by-product application effects on plant uptake and soil storage changes in a managed grassland. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 3386–3396 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-0626-6

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  • Coal combustion by-product
  • Desulfurization by-product
  • Plant uptake
  • Trace elements