Evaluating potential groundwater contamination from contaminated soils


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Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Contamination of soils at toxic and hazardous waste sites can adversely affect groundwater and surface water. Water soluble materials can move in soil by leaching and percolation and by runoff. This project evaluated the toxicity of leachable toxicants from seven soils, five of which were obtained from designated toxic or hazardous waste sites. Acidified, dechlorinated tap water was used to extract toxic materials from surface soils. Extracts were used as complex mixtures in acute toxicity tests using Daphnia and in chronic effect tests using microcosms. Three classes of effects were observed. Some leachates (including control soils) showed no toxicity. Some soil leachates had moderate acute toxicity (50-80% diluted leachate) and no chronic toxicity. Very toxic soils showed both acute and chronic toxicity at < 3% leachate. Toxicological evaluations of contaminants in waste site soils can provide information not available from chemical analyses and may be useful in verifying the effectiveness of cleanup effort.