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Environmental monitoring and assessment

Long-term evolution of highly alkaline steel slag drainage waters.


PMID 26108748

Abstract

The disposal of slag generated by the steel industry can have negative consequences upon the surrounding aquatic environment by the generation of high pH waters, leaching of potentially problematic trace metals, and rapid rates of calcite precipitation which smother benthic habitats. A 36-year dataset was collated from the long-term ambient monitoring of physicochemical parameters and elemental concentrations of samples from two steel slag leachate-affected watercourses in northern England. Waters were typified by elevated pH (>10), high alkalinity, and were rich in dissolved metals (e.g. calcium (Ca), aluminium (Al), and zinc (Zn)). Long-term trend analysis was performed upon pH, alkalinity, and Ca concentration which, in addition to Ca flux calculations, were used to highlight the longevity of pollution arising as a result of the dumping and subsequent leaching of steel slags. Declines in calcium and alkalinity have been modest over the monitoring period and not accompanied by significant declines in water pH. If the monotonic trends of decline in alkalinity and calcium continue in the largest of the receiving streams, it will be in the region of 50-80xa0years before calcite precipitation would be expected to be close to baseline levels, where ecological impacts would be negligible.

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