Metal distribution and spectroscopic analysis after soil washing with chelating agents and humic substances

Daniel C.W. Tsang, Neil R. Hartley

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Biodegradable chelating agents ([S,S]-ethylenediamine-N,N-disuccinic acid (EDDS) and glutamic-N,N-diacetic acid (GLDA)) and natural humic substances (lignite-derived, standard, and commercially available humic acids) are potentially useful for enhancing soil remediation of timber treatment sites. This study integrated macroscopic and spectroscopic analyses to assess their influence on the distribution and chemical speciation of the remaining metals as well as their interaction with the soil surface after 48-h washing of a field-contaminated soil. The results demonstrated that EDDS and GLDA were an appealing alternative to non-biodegradable ethylenediamine-tetraacetic acid, but the three humic substances were less effective. As shown by sequential extractions, Cu was primarily extracted from the carbonate fraction while Cr and As extraction resulted from (co-)dissolution of the oxide fraction. As a result, the relative proportion of strongly bound organic matter and residual fractions increased by 7-16 %. However, it was noteworthy that the exchangeable fraction also increased by 5-11 %, signifying that a portion of the remaining metals was destabilized by chelating agents and transformed to be more labile in the treated soil. The X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy spectra confirmed the substantial removal of readily accessible Cu from the soil surface, but Cr maintained its original chemical forms of trivalent chromium oxides and iron-chromium coprecipitates, whereas As remained as arsenic trioxide/pentoxide and copper arsenate precipitates. On the other hand, the absence of characteristic peaks of adsorbed carboxylate groups in the Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectra inferred that the extent of adsorption of chelating agents and humic substances on the bulk soil was insufficient to be characterized by FTIR analysis. These results suggested that attention should be paid to the exchangeable fraction of Cu and oxides/coprecipitates of As prior to possible on-site reuse of the treated soil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3987-3995
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


  • Chelating agents
  • Contaminated soil
  • FTIR
  • Humic substances
  • Metal fractionation
  • XPS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Pollution


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