Study of the Environmental Hazard Caused by the Oil Shale Industry Solid Waste

Lee Põllumaa, Alla Maloveryan, Marina Trapido, Helgi Sillak and Anne Kahru

The environmental hazard was studied of eight soil and solid waste samples originating from a region of Estonia heavily polluted by the oil shale industry. The samples were contaminated mainly with oil products (up to 7231mg/kg) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs; up to 434mg/kg). Concentrations of heavy metals and water-extractable phenols were low. The toxicities of the aqueous extracts of solid-phase samples were evaluated by using a battery of Toxkit tests (involving crustaceans, protozoa, rotifers and algae). Waste rock and fresh semi-coke were classified as of “high acute toxic hazard”, whereas aged semi-coke and most of the polluted soils were classified as of “acute toxic hazard”. Analysis of the soil slurries by using the photobacterial solid-phase flash assay showed the presence of particle-bound toxicity in most samples. In the case of four samples out of the eight, chemical and toxicological evaluations both showed that the levels of PAHs, oil products or both exceeded their respective permitted limit values for the living zone (20mg PAHs/kg and 500mg oil products/kg); the toxicity tests showed a toxic hazard. However, in the case of three samples, the chemical and toxicological hazard predictions differed markedly: polluted soil from the Erra River bank contained 2334mg oil/kg, but did not show any water-extractable toxicity. In contrast, spent rock and aged semi-coke that contained none of the pollutants in hazardous concentrations, showed adverse effects in toxicity tests. The environmental hazard of solid waste deposits from the oil shale industry needs further assessment.
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Rapid Screening for Soil Ecotoxicity with a Battery of Luminescent Bacteria Tests

Margit Heinlaan, Anne Kahru, Kaja Kasemets, Imbi Kurvet, Cristophe Waterlot, Kalev Sepp, Henri-Charles Dubourguier, and Francis Douay

A bacterial test battery, involving i) Microtox™, an aquatic test, ii) the Flash assay, a soil-suspension test (with Vibrio fischeri as the test organism), and iii) the Metal Detector assay, a semi-specific aquatic test for heavy metals (with recombinant luminescent Escherichia coli), was used in a combined toxicological and chemical hazard assessment of Estonian soils sampled from a former Soviet military airfield (13 samples) and from traffic-influenced roadsides (5 samples). The soils showed slightly elevated levels of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), but not of heavy metals. In most of the samples, the levels of TPH did not exceed the Estonian permitted limit values set for residential areas. Toxicity testing was performed on both fresh and dried soils, after aqueous extraction for 1 hour and 24 hours. The toxicity results obtained with the Microtox™ test did not significantly differ in all of the sample treatment schemes; however, it appeared that the drying and sieving of the soils increased the bioavailability of toxicants, probably due to an enlarged reactive soil surface area. According to chemical analysis of the soils and the data from the Microtox™ test and the Metal Detector assay (performed on aqueous elutriates of the soils), these soils would not be considered to be hazardous. In contrast, the Flash assay performed on soil–water suspensions of dried soils, showed that most of the soils were toxic and thus probably contained undetermined particle-bound bioavailable toxicants. The photobacterial toxicity test (the Flash assay) can be recommended for the rapid screening of soils, as it is sensitive, cheap and inexpensive, and provides valuable information on particle-bound bioavailable toxicants, useful for complementing a chemical analysis and for assessing the risks originating from polluted soils.
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The Use of Bioassays for the Risk Assessment of Toxic Leachates: An Experimental Study

Natalya Irha and Irina Blinova

Solid wastes from the oil-shale industry produce leachates containing toxic compounds such as heavy metals and persistent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). The hazard to the environment represented by waste leachates depends not only on their chemical composition, but also on the mobility and bioavailability of toxic contaminants in soils. We evaluated the applicability of bioassays for toxicity assessment of the bioavailable fraction of heavy metals and PAH in soils, in experiments with samples of four different soil types (Rendzina, Brown pseudopodzolic, Typical brown, Sodpodzolic), the pH of which ranged from 6.2 to 7.2. The toxicity of the bioavailable fraction of the soil contaminants was assessed with the dehydrogenase enzyme activity assay, and with a Toxkit microbiotest with the crustacean, Thamnocephalus platyurus, after treatment of the soil samples with an artificial solution containing chromium (III), lead (II),
copper (II), cadmium (II) and pyrene. The test results confirm those of earlier experiments, which characterised the sorption potential of investigated soils for the same compounds. Both tests turned out to be sufficiently sensitive, and hence can be recommended as effective and useful tools for the assessment of the bioavailable fraction of soil contaminants.
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