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Journal of environmental quality

Sorption of Pharmaceuticals, Heavy Metals, and Herbicides to Biochar in the Presence of Biosolids.


PMID 27898796

Abstract

Agricultural practices are increasingly incorporating recycled waste materials, such as biosolids, to provide plant nutrients and enhance soil functions. Although biosolids provide benefits to soil, municipal wastewater treatment plants receive pharmaceuticals and heavy metals that can accumulate in biosolids, and land application of biosolids can transfer these contaminants to the soil. Environmental exposure of these contaminants may adversely affect wildlife, disrupt microbial communities, detrimentally affect human health through long-term exposure, and cause the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This study considers the use of biochar co-amendments as sorbents for contaminants from biosolids. The sorption of pharmaceuticals (ciprofloxacin, triclocarban, triclosan), and heavy metals (Cu, Cd, Ni, Pb) to biochars and biochar-biosolids-soil mixtures was examined. Phenylurea herbicide (monuron, diuron, linuron) sorption was also studied to determine the potential effect of biochar on soil-applied herbicides. A softwood (SW) biochar (510°C) and a walnut shell (WN) biochar (900°C) were used as contrasting biochars to highlight potential differences in biochar reactivity. Kaolinite and activated carbon served as mineral and organic controls. Greater sorption for almost all contaminants was observed with WN biochar over SW biochar. The addition of biosolids decreased sorption of herbicides to SW biochar, whereas there was no observable change with WN biochar. The WN biochar showed potential for reducing agrochemical and contaminant transport but may inhibit the efficacy of soil-applied herbicides. This study provides support for minimizing contaminant mobility from biosolids using biochar as a co-amendment and highlights the importance of tailoring biochars for specific characteristics through feedstock selection and pyrolysis-gasification conditions.

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