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Formation of a lead insoluble phase using an immobilization material and its maximization in soil under unsaturated moisture conditions

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In lead-contaminated soil, it is favorable that the formation of lead insoluble phases is maximized in water-unsaturated soil amended with hydroxyapatite. The aims of this study were to determine a relationship between the pyromorphite formation and soil moisture condition from the water-unsaturated to water-saturated soil and to provide a reproducible procedure to maximize pyromorphite formation in the water-unsaturated soil.

Materials and methods

Hydroxyapatite was well mixed with the soil, and ultrapure water was added to maintain 0, 50, and 100% soil water-holding capacity (WHC). All treatments were performed without mixing and incubated at 25 °C for 2 weeks. Another test was conducted to investigate stirring as a method to maximize the formation of pyromorphite. The soil with hydroxyapatite was prepared following the same procedure, and ultrapure water was added to maintain 50, 100, and 120% soil WHC. Stirring was performed 10 and 100 times using a glass bar after the addition of water. In the soil with 120% WHC, stirring was further conducted 100 times in the first and second weeks. After incubation, the soil samples were collected and freeze dried prior to chemical and X-ray diffraction (XRD) analyses.

Results and discussion

The presence of water in the soil pores at more than 50% WHC induced the water-soluble lead level to be suppressed by more than 99.8% compared with no water presence in the soil pores. A quantitative XRD analysis showed that the percentages of lead transformed into pyromorphite in the soil with 50 and 100% WHC as well as in the flooded soil were 6.5, 19, and 27%, respectively, of the lead added during the 2-week incubation, while that in soil with 0% WHC was under the limit of detection (< 3.0%). The stirring treatment demonstrated a substantial enhancement in the formation of pyromorphite in the water-unsaturated soil; however, in the water-saturated soil, stirring was not effective.


The water-saturated or more soil moisture conditions are favorable for the formation of pyromorphite; however, the addition of a large quantity of water would also cause the lead to spread during the reaction of lead immobilization. Thus, to simultaneously achieve the greatest pyromorphite formation and reduction in the lead leachability, the application of immobilization material to the water-unsaturated soil and the 10 times or longer stirring treatment would be an effective for lead immobilization.

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The ICP-AES and CN analyzer used for chemical analysis in this study was made available by the Division of Instrumental Analysis at Gifu University. The authors are grateful to Prof. Y. Ohya for allowing the use of the XRD.

Funding information

This study was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) KAKENHI [grant number 25740036].

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Correspondence to Masahiko Katoh.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Responsible editor: Claudio Bini

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Shimizu, S., Sato, T. & Katoh, M. Formation of a lead insoluble phase using an immobilization material and its maximization in soil under unsaturated moisture conditions. J Soils Sediments 18, 1052–1059 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-017-1813-2

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  • Hydroxyapatite
  • Immobilization lead
  • Pyromorphite
  • Soil moisture condition
  • Soil remediation
  • X-ray diffraction