The effect of organic materials on the mobility and toxicity of metals in contaminated soils

Rene van Herwijnen, Tim Laverye, Jane Poole, Mark E. Hodson, Tony R. Hutchings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organic materials such as compost are often proposed as suitable materials for the remediation of contaminated brownfield sites intended for soft end-use. In addition to vitalising the soil, they are also believed to immobilise metals thereby breaking contaminant-receptor pathways and reducing the ecotoxicity of the contaminants. However, some research has demonstrated contradictory effects between composts on metal immobilisation. In the present study, four different composts and a liming product containing organic matter (LimeX70) were tested to examine both their metal retention and toxicity reduction capabilities on three different metal contaminated soils. Leaching tests, a plant growth test with Greek cress (Lepidium sativum), an earthworm (Eisenia fetida) survival and condition test and a bacterial toxicity test using Vibrio fischeri were carried out. The leaching test results showed that spent mushroom compost caused an increase in metal concentration in the leachates, while LimeX70 caused a decrease. The variation in behaviour between different amendments for each soil was high, so a generic conclusion could not be drawn. Toxicity tests showed significant reduction of metal bioavailability and toxicity for Greek cress, earthworms and bacteria. The results also suggest that more research should be undertaken to understand the mechanisms involved in metal complexation using different types of organic matter, in order to optimise the use of organic materials like compost for soil remediation. Crown Copyright (C) 2007 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2422-2434
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number11
Early online date30 Jun 2007
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007

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© 2013 Elsevier B.V. except certain content provided by third parties.

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