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Effect of long-term irrigation with sewage effluent on the metal content of soils, Berlin, Germany

Abstract

This study aimed to determine whether >110 years of sewage application has led to recognizable changes in the metal chemistry of soils from former sewage farms, Berlin, Germany. Background concentrations of soils and element enrichment factors were used for the evaluation of possible perturbations of natural element abundances in sewage farm soils. Calculations verify that precious metals (Ag, Au) as well as P, Corg, and heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, Sn, and Zn) are invariably enriched in sewage farm topsoils (0–0.1 m depth) compared to local and regional background soils. Long-term irrigation of soils with municipal wastewater has caused significant heavy metal contamination as well as a pronounced enrichment in precious metals. Leaching of metals including Ag into underlying aquifers may impact on the quality of drinking water supplies.

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Acknowledgments

Financial support by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. Dr. N. C. Munksgaard conducted the soil leaching experiments.

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Correspondence to Bernd G. Lottermoser.

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Lottermoser, B.G. Effect of long-term irrigation with sewage effluent on the metal content of soils, Berlin, Germany. Environ Geochem Health 34, 67–76 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-011-9391-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10653-011-9391-5

Keywords

  • Sewage
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Sewage farms
  • Soils
  • Metals