Environmental impact of heavy metal pollution in natural aquatic systems
The distribution of heavy metals between soil and soil solutions is a key issue in evaluating the environmental impact of long term applications of heavy metals to land. Contamination of soils by heavy metals has been reported by many workers. Metal adsorption is affected by many factors, including soil pH, clay mineralogy, abundance of oxides and organic matter, soil composition and solution ionic strength. The pH is one of the many factors affecting mobility of heavy metals in soils and it is likely to be the most easily managed and the most significant. To provide the appropriate level of protection for aquatic life and other uses of the resource, it is important to be able to predict the environmental distribution of important metals on spatial and temporal scales and to do so with particular emphasis on the water column concentrations. Regulatory levels reflected in water quality criteria or standards are based on water column concentrations. Predicting water column concentrations requires a consideration of the interactions of water column contaminants with both bed sediments and suspended particulates as critical components in the assessment. The adsorption behaviour of cadmium, copper, lead and zinc onto soils is studied under the various geo-environmental conditions of pH, concentration of adsorbate and adsorbent, and solution compositions. Experiments were conducted to determine the equilibrium contact time of various adsorbates for adsorbent in different systems. Experiments were also conducted to check the efficiency of various acid-mixtures to extract heavy metal from soils into the aqueous phase. The adsorption behaviour of heavy metals onto soils was also studied from sea-water system. Soils are characterized in terms of the role of clay minerals to remove the metals from the solution phase, back-ground levels of metals, maximum adsorption capacity to adsorb various heavy metals from different adsorption systems, and type of surface sites present. The experimental data of metal adsorption is described by Langmuir adsorption model. The adsorption data are also expressed in terms of surface loading, surface acidity, adsorption density, and affinity of soils for heavy metals in different adsorption systems. Ecological implications of changes in physical and chemical conditions in aquatic systems on heavy metals uptake by soils are also discussed. This research covers the following areas: the environmental impact of heavy metal discharge into the aquatic systems, the study of the mobility patterns of different heavy metals as function of geo-environmental conditions, and determination of the pathways and the ultimate fate of heavy metals in the environment.