Shooting range contamination: mobility and transport of lead (Pb), copper (Cu) and antimony (Sb) in contaminated peatland

Abstract

Purpose

Small arm shooting ranges located in peatland areas are gathering increased attention due to severe metal and antimony (Sb) contamination and challenging conditions for remediation. The goal of the present study was to gain further understanding of the distribution, binding and transport of lead (Pb), copper (Cu) and Sb in peatland contaminated by small arm shooting range activities.

Materials and methods

A field experiment was carried out at a recently closed shooting range facility in Norway, including (i) peat soil sampling for various selective extractions (water, chemical extractions, extractions by diffusive gradients in thin films, DGT), (ii) establishing groundwater wells for groundwater sampling and monitoring of groundwater level and (iii) sampling of water and sediments in surface water. The results from groundwater monitoring were used to carry out hydrogeological numerical simulations using Seep/W and CTran/W. These models were used to evaluate the residence time of the contaminants in the peatland.

Results and discussion

Increased metal concentrations were observed in the top layer of the peatland, indicating low vertical transport. Groundwater revealed high concentrations of Pb (22 ± 5 μg/L), Cu (16 ± 6 μg/L) and Sb (11 ± 2 μg/L), the dominating contaminant source to the downstream surface water. Hydrogeological modelling indicated that transport mainly happened in the upper peat layer, as a result of a higher hydraulic conductivity close to the surface and a high groundwater table. Pb (6.9 ± 0.1 μg/L), Cu (24.0 ± 0.0 μg/L) and Sb (7.4 ± 0.1 μg/L) concentrations in the stream samples confirmed the spreading of contaminants at levels toxic to aquatic organisms. Pb and Cu were most likely associated with dissolved organic carbon (DOC), whereas Sb showed no correlation with DOC.

Conclusions

The elements contaminating the peatland may leak to the nearby water course over a long-term period. Copper showed the highest concentration in the stream water despite considerably higher levels of Pb in the peat soil. Strong complexation of Cu to dissolved organic matter might explain this observation. Only a little fraction of the contaminants is transported in a particulate form, and therefore are increased sedimentation measures not considered as viable remediation option.

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Acknowledgements

Financial support was provided by the Norwegian Defence Estate Agency and NGI. The authors thank Karl Andreas Jensen, Irene Eriksen Dahl and Solfid Lohne for all the valuable help with the laboratory work at NMBU. Jan Birger Voldmo is thanked for all field assistance in connection with field work at Terningmoen. We would also like to thank Professor Jan Mulder at the University of Life Sciences in Ås and Professor Rolf David Vogt at the University of Oslo for fruitful and insightful discussions.

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Correspondence to Gudny Okkenhaug.

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Responsible editor: Mette Broholm

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Okkenhaug, G., Smebye, A.B., Pabst, T. et al. Shooting range contamination: mobility and transport of lead (Pb), copper (Cu) and antimony (Sb) in contaminated peatland. J Soils Sediments 18, 3310–3323 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-017-1739-8

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Keywords

  • Antimony
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Mobility
  • Peatland
  • Shooting range soil