Key mechanisms for the release of metal(loid)s from a construction material in hydraulic engineering
- Hydraulic engineering and thus construction materials are necessary to enable the navigability of water ways. Since, a variety of natural as well as artificial materials are used, this materials are world wide tested on a potential release of dangerous substances to prevent adverse effects on the environment. To determine the potential release, it is important to identify and to understand key mechanisms which are decisive for the release of hazardous substances. A limited correlation between the conditions used in regulatory tests and those found in environmental systems is given and hence, often the significance of results from standardised tests on construction materials is questioned, since they are not designed to mimic environmental conditions.
In Germany industrial by-products are used as armour stones in hydraulic engineering. Especially the by-product copper slag is used during the last 40 years for the construction of embankments, groynes and coastal protection. On the one hand, this material has a high density and natural resources (landscape) are protected. One the other hand, the material contains high quantities of metal(loid)s. Therefore the copper slag (product name: iron silicate stones) is very suitable as test material. Metal(loid)s examined were As, Sb and Mo as representatives for (hydr)oxide forming elements and Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, Ni, Pb and Zn were studied as representatives for elements forming cations during the release.
Questions addressed in this Thesis were: (i) can we transfer the results from batch experiments to construction scenarios under the prevalent environmental conditions, (ii) which long-term trends exist for the release of metal(loid)s from copper slags and (iii) how environmental conditions influence the leaching of metal(loid)s from water construction materials?
To answer the first question the surface depending release of the metal(loid)s from the construction materials was examined. Therefore, batch leaching experiments with different particle sizes and a constant liquid/solid ratio were performed. In a second step a comparison between different methods for the determination of the specific surface area of armour stones with a 3D laser scanning method as a reference were performed. In a last step it was possible to show that via a roughness factor the results of the specific surface area from small stones, measured with gas adsorption, can be connected with the results from armour stones, determined with an aluminium foil method. Based on calculations of the specific surface area, it was possible to significantly improve catchment scale calculation about the release of metal(loid)s and to evaluate a potential impact of construction materials in hydraulic engineering on the water chemistry of rivers and streams.
To answer the second question long-term leaching diffuse gradient in thin films supported experiments were performed for half a year. Diffuse gradients in thin films (DGT) is an in situ method to passive sample metal(loid)s in water, sediments and soils. They were used as a sink for metal(loid)s in the eluate to provide solution equilibriums. Thus the exchange of the eluent, which is performed normally in long-term experiments, was superfluous and long-term effects under undisturbed conditions were studied. The long-term leaching experiments with DGT have proven to be capable (i) to differentiate between the depletion of the material surface and the solution equilibriums and (ii) to study sorption processes with or without a further release of the analytes. This means for the practically relevant test material copper slag that: (i) the cations Cd, Co, Cu, Ni and Pb are confirmed to be released from the slag over the whole time period of six months, (ii) a surface depletion of Zn was detected, and (iii) that the (hydr)oxide forming elements As, Mo and Sb were released from the slag over the hole periods of six months but the release was masked by adsorption to Fe-oxide colloids, which were formed during the leaching experiments. It was confirmed, that sulphide minerals are the main source for long-term release of Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb and Mo.
To answer the third question short-term leaching experiments simulating environmental conditions in hydraulic engineering were performed. One factor is the salinity. The influence of this parameter was tested in batch experiments with sea salt solution (30 g/l), river Rhine water, ultra pure water and in addition with different NaCl concentration (5, 10, 20 and 30 g/l). In general, the ionic strength is an important factor for the metal(loid) release but the composition of the water (e.g. the HCO3- content) may superimpose this effect. Therefore, the concentrations of the metal(loid)s in the experiments with ultra-pure water spiked with sea salt or native river water and the ultra-pure water spiked with NaCl were significantly different. In a second experiment the influence of the environmental parameters and the interactions between the environmental parameters pH (4–10), sediment content (0 g–3.75 g), temperature (4 °C–36 °C) and ionic strength (0 g/l–30 g/l NaCl) on the release of metal(loid)s from the test material was examined. The statistical Design of Experiments (DoE) was used to study the influence of these factors as well as their interactions. All studied factors may impact the release of metal(loid)s from the test material to the eluent, whereas the release and the partitioning between sediment and eluate of metal(loid)s was impacted by interactions between the studied factors. The main processes were sorption, complexation, solubility, buffering and ion exchange. In addition, by separating the sediment from the slag after the experiments by magnetic separation, the enrichment of metal(loid)s in the sediment was visible. Thus, the sediment was the most important factor for the release of the metal(loid)s, via pH, temperature and ionic strength, because the sediment acted as a sink.