Partitioning of organic matter and heavy metals in a sandy soil: Effects of extracting solution, solid to liquid ratio and pH

P.M.J. Fest, E.J.M. Temminghoff, R.N.J. Comans, W.H. van Riemsdijk

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72 Citations (Scopus)


In sandy soils the behavior of heavy metals is largely controlled by soil organic matter (solid and dissolved organic matter; SOC and DOC). Therefore, knowledge of the partitioning of organic matter between the solid phase and soil solution is essential for adequate predictions of the total dissolved metal concentration in the soil solution. At present, only a few studies have incorporated solid/liquid partitioning of organic matter in metal mobility predictions. In order to gain more insight in the behavior of DOC, we have studied the effect of the extraction solution, solid to liquid ratio (SLR), pH and storage time on the extractability of DOC and related metal concentration in the soil solution of a sandy soil. Furthermore, the composition of the DOC was measured and free metal concentrations were analyzed in the soil solution with the Donnan Membrane Technique. Extraction solution, SLR and pH affected the extracted amount of both DOC and metals. The DOC concentrations were highest in pore water and decreased further from water extracts to CaCl2 extracts. In general, with increasing SLR the metal/DOC ratio decreased, which indicated that the increased DOC at higher SLR had a lower average metal binding capacity than DOC released at the lowest SLR. Storage time of the samples and changes in the field greatly affected the extracted amount of DOC; the DOC concentration of samples taken 20 years ago and stored for a long period of time are 10 times higher than for samples from the same area and stored for less than one year. The extracted DOC is comprised mainly of fulvic acids (FA) and hydrophilic acids. Humic acids (HA) played a minor role in the DOC, which is in contrast to the often used assumptions on the DOC compositions in modeling studies. The composition of DOC is also affected by the soil pH; at low pH the contribution of FA to the total DOC concentration is lower because more FA is adsorbed to Fe-oxides in the soil. Speciation calculations assuming that DOC comprised of HA, FA and citric acid (as a model substance for hydrophilic acids) showed that for Cu the citrate-bound Cu could be up to 20% of the total Cu in solution. This study shows that more research is needed to gain more insight in the composition, concentration and behavior of DOC under field conditions in order to improve the prediction of metal leaching in the field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-74
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • donnan membrane technique
  • low-molecular-weight
  • humic substances
  • contaminated soils
  • model parameters
  • fulvic-acids
  • trace-metals
  • bottom ash
  • copper
  • speciation


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