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Characterization, partitioning, and potential ecological risk quantification of trace elements in coal fly ash

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Abstract

Coal-based thermal power plants are the major source of power generation in India. Combustion of coal gives rise to by-products such as fly ash (FA) in huge quantities. The current study focuses on physico-chemical and mineralogical characterization and risk evaluation of FA, generated from five thermal power plants (TPPs) of India. The coal, and corresponding FA and bottom ash (BA) were further analyzed for trace elements in order to observe the enrichment and partitioning behavior of elements. The environmental risk assessment of trace elements in FA was performed in accordance with geoaccumulation index (I geo) and potential ecological risk index (PERI). The results demonstrated that FA was enriched predominantly in SiO2, Al2O3, and Fe2O3 along with small concentrations of CaO and MgO. The mineral phases identified in FA were quartz, mullite, hematite, and magnetite. Elemental characterization indicated that the metals were more enriched in FA as compared to coal and BA. The concentrations of trace elements, Cr, Pb, Hg, and As in FA (TPPs), varied from 12.59–24.28, 22.68–43.19, <0.0001–2.29, and 0.08–3.39 mg/kg, respectively. Maximum enrichment ratio (ER) was observed for Pb (5.21) in TPP3 FA. Hg in TPP1 showed the highest partition ratio (PR) value. I geo values for metals were mostly below zero. The PERI values indicated moderate risk from TPP4 FA and low risk from TPP1, TPP2, TPP3, and TPP5 FA to the environment, according to the threshold values provided.

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the Central Research facility of Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad, for providing necessary research facilities.

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Correspondence to Vipin Kumar.

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Usmani, Z., Kumar, V. Characterization, partitioning, and potential ecological risk quantification of trace elements in coal fly ash. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24, 15547–15566 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-9171-6

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