Cottongrass effects on trace elements in submersed mine tailings.

Stoltz E., Greger M.
Journal of Environmental Quality


Phytostablization may limit the leakage of metals and As from submersed mine tailings, thus treatment of acid mine drainage with lime could be reduced. Tall cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium Honckeny) and white cottongrass (E. scheuchzeri Hoppe) were planted in pots with unlimed (pH 5.0) and limed (pH 10.9) tailings (containing sulfides) amended with sewage sludge (SS) or a bioash–sewage sludge mixture (ASM). Effects of the amendments on plant growth and plant element uptake were studied. Also, effects of plant growth on elements (Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn, and As), pH, electrical conductivity (EC), and concentrations of kemi, in the drainage water as well as dissolved oxygen in tailings, were measured. Both plant species grew better and the shoot element concentrations of white cottongrass were lower in SS than in ASM. Metal concentrations were lowest in drainage water from limed tailings, and plant establishment had little effect on metal release, except for an increase in Zn levels, even though kemi levels were increased. In unlimed tailings, plant growth increased kemi levels slightly; however, pH was increased and metal concentrations were low. Thus, metals were stabilized by plant uptake and high pH. Amendments or plants did not affect As levels in the drainage water from unlimed tailings. Thus, to reduce the use of lime for stabilizing metals, phytostabilization with tall cottongrass and white cottongrass on tailings is a sound possibility.



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