Lead and Zinc in Soils Around a Zinc-Works – Presence, Mobility and Environmental Risk
 
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AGH University of Science and Technology, Department of Environmental Protection, Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection, al. Mickiewicza 30, 30-059 Kraków, Poland
CORRESPONDING AUTHOR
Alicja Justyna Kicińska   

AGH University of Science and Technology, Department of Environmental Protection, Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection, al. Mickiewicza 30, 30-059 Kraków, Poland
Publication date: 2020-05-01
 
J. Ecol. Eng. 2020; 21(4):185–198
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ABSTRACT
The aim of this paper was to analyse the impact of long-term operation of a zinc-works on the soil environment based on 20-year observations. The study material comprised the surface soil samples and soil profiles collected in close vicinity of the zinc-works in Miasteczko Śląskie (Southern Poland) and in the locations within certain distance from the plant. The total content of Pb and Zn in the surface soil samples collected in the vicinity of the zinc-works in 2018 ranged from 3,975 to 26,200 mg/kg for Pb and from 3,358 to 21,867 mg/kg for Zn. These values were considerably higher than those recorded 20 years earlier (i.e. 601–11,939 mg/kg and 1,009–13,924 mg/kg for Pb and Zn, respectively). The mineral composition was dominated by quartz, feldspars and carbonates (e.g. calcium carbonate). Additionally, iron hydroxides (lepidocrocite), lead sulphates (anglesite) and zinc silicates (hemimorphite) were found. The bioavailable quantities of Pb and Zn in the soil samples collected in 2018 amounted to 30% of the total content in the case of Pb and 34% of the total Zn content. Twenty years earlier, the mean values were 66% (Pb) and 44% (Zn), respectively. The acidity of the soil samples collected in the vicinity of the zinc-works indicated their very good buffering capacity, as well as the capacity to release 58–60% of the total Pb and Zn contents to the environment, with a pH decrease of only 3 units. The Risk Assessment Code (RAC) calculated based on the Pb and Zn cations in the exchangeable positions and bound with carbonates indicates that even after 20 years, there is still a high environmental risk related to the presence of those metals in soils. This paper also demonstrates that presently the major factors contributing to the pollution of soil are deflation and suffosion of small particles from the old, unprotected mining and industrial waste dumps.