Determination of mercury in polluted soils surrounding a chlor-alkali plant. Direct speciation by X-ray absorption spectroscopy techniques and preliminary geochemical characterisation of the area

Anna Bernaus, Xavier Gaona, Derk van Ree, Manuel Valiente

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Abstract

Soil samples collected in the surroundings of a chlor-alkali plant in the Netherlands were characterised by synchrotron-based techniques and conventional analytical procedures, in order to evaluate the environmental impact of Hg emissions and other heavy metals present in these locations. Analysis of total metal content by inductively coupled plasma-optical spectroscopy (ICP-OES) revealed a heterogeneous contamination of Hg, with concentrations ranging from 4.3 to 1150 μg g-1. In addition, significant concentrations of Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn, Mn and principally Fe were also identified within the studied samples. Direct determination of mercury species by X-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy (XANES) showed inorganic Hg compounds to prevail in all soils, being Cinnabar (HgSred) and Corderoite (Hg3S2Cl2) the main species. Nevertheless, more soluble mercury compounds, such as HgO and HgSO4, have been also identified in significant proportion (from 6 to 20% of total mercury content), indicating a potential risk of mercury mobilisation. On the other hand, the application of sequential extraction schemes (SES) revealed large portions of weakly available Hg extracted in the residual fraction, while Hg associated to the exchangeable phase amounts as much as 19% of total Hg, thus, supporting the results obtained by XANES. Finally, synchrotron-based micro X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF) was applied to identify qualitative trends on elemental associations in sample particles through a systematic mapping of its surface. In this concern, results show a well-defined correlation between Hg and Cu/Ni in the analysed particles. On the other hand, an absence of correlation between Hg and several other elements (Fe, Ti, Ca, Zn, Mn and S) was also observed. These effects have been attributed to chemical and physical interactions of mercury species on both enriched particles and sample matrices. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-80
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Volume565
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2006

Keywords

  • Chlor-alkali plant
  • Mercury mobility
  • Micro X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF)
  • Sequential extraction schemes
  • Soil mercury speciation
  • X-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy (XANES)

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