Hydrocarbon-Contamination of Soils: The Potential of Sodium Clays to Decelerate Soil Toxicants

  •  Mark Harris    


Hydrocarbon-contamination can change hydraulic conductivity (HC) in soils, and hence increase the spreading rate of aqueous toxicants in the ground. A constant head permeameter used in the laboratory to measure HC of soils taken from near the Pitch Lake in Trinidad determined that the HC exceeded that of a reference soil having “normal HC” for a loam. Although water moved rapidly through it, the Pitch Lake soil (PLS) remained dry due to water repellence. Treatment consisted of either of two red mud bauxite wastes mixed at 25 and 50% w/w with PLS at air dry. One of the bauxite wastes had undergone treatment with gypsum several years before and hence contained a greater proportion of calcium ions compared to the other red mud which contained more sodium ions. At 25% w/w the non-gypsum-treated red mud waste decreased HC of the PLS by 50%, and at 50% w/w caused a 10-fold decrease of HC on the PLS. The gypsum-treated red mud waste had no effect on the HC of the PLS. The drastic decrease in HC of the hydrocarbon-contaminated soil implies blocking of hydraulic channels by inorganic particles. The high levels of Na+ released in the Bayer beneficiation process dispersed and released fine < 5 mµ clay particles from the non-gypsum-treated red muds. This suggests that the rapid movement of aqueous pollutants in such hydrocarbon-polluted soils could be similarly curtailed under field conditions.

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