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Assessment of repeated harvests on mercury and arsenic phytoextraction in a multi-contaminated industrial soil

1 Institute of Ecosystem Studies, National Council of Research, Pisa, Italy
2 Eni S.p.A., Renewable Energy & Environmental Laboratories, S.Donato Milanese (MI), Italy

Special Issues: Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology of Mercury

Mercury is widely distributed throughout the environment. In many contaminated soils other contaminants are present along with mercury; of these, arsenic is one of the most frequently found metals. In the presence of mixed contamination of this kind, remediation technologies must overcome many difficulties due to the different chemical characteristics of the various contaminants. In this study, repeated assisted phytoextraction cycles with Brassica juncea, were conducted on a laboratory scale to evaluate the removal efficiency of mercury and arsenic from a multi-contaminated industrial soil. The possibility of using only one additive, ammonium thiosulphate, to remove mercury and arsenic from co-contaminated soil simultaneously was also investigated. The thiosulfate addition greatly promoted the plant uptake of both contaminants, with an efficiency comparable to that of phosphate specifically used to mobilize specifically arsenic. Repeated additions of mobilizing agents increased metal availability in soil, promoted plant uptake and consequently increased the removal of contaminants in the studied soil.
Repeated treatments with thiosulfate increased the concentration of mercury and arsenic in the Brassica juncea aerial part, but due to toxic effects of mercury that reduce biomass production, the total accumulation of both metals in plants tended to decrease at each subsequent re-growth.
The use of a single additive to remove both contaminants simultaneously offers several new advantages to phytoextraction technology in terms of reducing cost and time.
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