Leaching of heavy metals from contaminated soils: An experimental and modeling study

J.J. Dijkstra, J.C.L. Meeussen, R.N.J. Comans

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240 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we characterize the leaching of heavy metals (Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, and Pb) from eight contaminated soils over a wide range of pH (pH 0.4-12) using an original approach based on batch pH-static leaching experiments in combination with selective chemical extractions and geochemical modeling. The leached concentrations of the heavy metals are generally much lower than the total concentrations and show a strong pH dependency, resulting in "V-shaped" leaching curves with orders of magnitude changes in solution concentrations. The "multisurface" model used incorporates adsorption to dissolved and solid organic matter (NICA-Donnan), iron/aluminum (hydr)oxide (generalized two-layer model) and clay (Donnan model). These models were applied without modifications, and only the standard set of binding constants and parameters was used (i.e., without any fitting). The model predictions of heavy metal leaching are generally adequate and sometimes excellent. Results from speciation calculations are consistent with the well-recognized importance of organic matter as the dominant reactive solid phase in soils. The observed differences between soils with respect to element speciation in the solid phase correspond to the relative amounts of the reactive surfaces present in the soils. In the solution phase, complexes with dissolved organic matter (DOM) are predominant over most of the pH range. Free metal ions (Me2+) are generally the dominant species below pH 4. The combination of the experimental and modeling approach as used in this study is shown to be promising because it leads to a more fundamental understanding of the pH-dependent leaching processes in soils. The "multisurface" modeling approach, with the selected sorption models, is shown to be able to adequately predict the leaching of heavy metals from contaminated soils over a wide range of conditions, without any fitting of parameters
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4390-4395
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • nica-donnan model
  • dissolved organic-matter
  • incinerator bottom ash
  • humic substances
  • ion-binding
  • sandy soil
  • solubility control
  • waste
  • speciation
  • sorption

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