Regional mass flux balancing for controlling gentle soil remediation operations

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Extraction of heavy metals by accumulating plants is a method which is currently in development for the “gentle” remediation of contaminated agricultural soils (phytoremediation, see [2]). Areal contaminant mass flux balances are basic criteria for the design of such remediations and their control. A framework for the integration of contaminant balances relating the field scale of remediation with the regional scale of soil monitoring networks is provided by the recently developed method PROTERRA [3]. The objective of the study presented in this paper was to test the suitability of PROTERRA for planning and monitoring gentle soil remediations. For this purpose we applied the PROTERRA method to the contaminated agricultural land in and around Dornach, Switzerland, to assess copper flux balances.

The calculations showed that atmospheric deposition and the application of pesticides and manure are important pathways for the inputs of copper. The copper export with a special maize cultivar accumulating heavy metals would be about three times higher than the average metal export with crops. A moderate increase of sewage sludge application would lead to a substantial increase of the copper input. Decisions to remediate the soil should take the uncertainty of mass flux balances both on field scale as well as on regional scale into account. Therefore, an important need of further development of the PROTERRA method is the integration of uncertainty analysis on both scales.

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