An explanation for the apparent losses of metals in a long-term field experiment with sewage sludge

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McGrath, S. P. and Lane, P. W. 1989. An explanation for the apparent losses of metals in a long-term field experiment with sewage sludge. Environmental Pollution. 60 (3-4), pp. 235-256.

AuthorsMcGrath, S. P. and Lane, P. W.

Large losses of metals applied to soil in metal-contaminated sewage sludge have been reported. The potential pathways of loss, including lateral movement from treated plot areas, have not been examined. A field experiment, which started in 1942, was investigated to determine the amount of lateral movement of zinc, cadmium, copper, nickel, chromium and lead due to conventional cultivation processes. A two-dimensional 'dispersion' model (i.e. movement of soil due to cultivation) fitted well to the observed movement of metals, and gave coefficients for movement of 0.24 and 0.13 m(2) per tillage operation in dimensions parallel or perpendicular to the direction of ploughing, respectively. For testing purposes, the model was used to predict the concentrations of metals in specific areas of a plot or average concentrations for whole plots at different points in time. The concentrations measured in soil samples agreed well with the predicted values. Finally, the model was also used to estimate the proportion of the metal load applied between 1942 and 1961 that remained in the 0-27 cm cultivated layer in 1985. About 80% was accounted for: this large recovery is of great relevance to the long-term disposal of metal-contaminated wastes to land. Detailed analyses of soil profile samples showed that approximately 1% of the metals applied had moved 3.5 cm below the plough layer or less, but there was no evidence of accumulation of metals in deeper horizons down to 46 cm. These results are discussed in relation to the other potential losses of metals in the experiment.


Year of Publication1989
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Journal citation60 (3-4), pp. 235-256
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
PubMed ID15092379
Open accessPublished as non-open access
Funder project or code34
Elsevier Sci Ltd

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