Assessment of long-term wastewater irrigation impacts on the soil geochemical properties and the bioaccumulation of heavy metals to the agricultural products

Abstract

An extensive field survey was employed for assessing the impacts of long-term wastewater irrigation of forage crops and orange orchards in three suburban agricultural areas in Cyprus (areas I, II, and III), as compared to rainfed agriculture, on the soil geochemical properties and the bioaccumulation of heavy metals (Zn, Ni, Mn, Cu, Co) to the agricultural products. Both ryegrass fields and orange orchards in areas I and II were continuously wastewater irrigated for 10 years, whereas clover fields in area III for 0.5, 4, and 8 years. The results revealed that wastewater reuse for irrigation caused a slight increase in soil salinity and Cl content in areas I and II, and a remarkable increase, having strong correlation with the period in which wastewater irrigation was practiced, in area III. Soil salinization in area III was due to the high electrical conductivity (EC) of the wastewater applied for irrigation, attributed to the influx of seawater to the sewage collection network in area III. In addition, the wastewater irrigation practice resulted in a slight decrease of the soil pH values in area III, while a subtle impact was identified regarding the CaCO3, Fe, and heavy metal content in the three areas surveyed. The heavy metal content quantified in the forage plants’ above-ground parts was below the critical levels of phytotoxicity and the maximum acceptable concentration in dairy feed, whereas heavy metals quantified in orange fruit pulp were below the maximum permissible levels (MPLs). Heavy metal phytoavailability was confined due to soil properties (high pH and clay content), as evidenced by the calculated low transfer factor (TF).

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank all the personnel of the Cyprus Agricultural Research Institute involved in the study for their excellent technical assistance. This study was undertaken in collaboration with Nireas-International Water Research Center of the University of Cyprus and supported by Cyprus Agricultural Research Institute Internal Grant to Anastasis Christou.

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Correspondence to Anastasis Christou.

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Christou, A., Eliadou, E., Michael, C. et al. Assessment of long-term wastewater irrigation impacts on the soil geochemical properties and the bioaccumulation of heavy metals to the agricultural products. Environ Monit Assess 186, 4857–4870 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-014-3743-4

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Keywords

  • Electrical conductivity
  • Forage crops
  • Heavy metal
  • Orange
  • Public health
  • Wastewater irrigation