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New phosphate-based binder for stabilization of soils contaminated with heavy metals: Leaching, strength and microstructure characterization

Journal of Environmental Management
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.07.035
  • Solidification/Stabilization
  • Binder
  • Heavy Metals
  • Leachability
  • Strength


Abstract Cement stabilization is used extensively to remediate soils contaminated with heavy metals. However, previous studies suggest that the elevated zinc (Zn) and lead (Pb) concentrations in the contaminated soils would substantially retard the cement hydration, leading to the deterioration of the performance of cement stabilized soils. This study presents a new binder, KMP, composed of oxalic acid-activated phosphate rock, monopotassium phosphate and reactive magnesia. The effectiveness of stabilization using this binder is investigated on soils spiked with Zn and Pb, individually and together. Several series of tests are conducted including toxicity characteristic leaching (TCLP), ecotoxicity in terms of luminescent bacteria test and unconfined compressive strength. The leachability of a field Zn- and Pb- contaminated soil stabilized with KMP is also evaluated by TCLP leaching test. The results show that the leached Zn concentrations are lower than the China MEP regulatory limit except when Zn and Pb coexist and for the curing time of 7 days. On the other hand, the leached Pb concentrations for stabilized soils with Pb alone or mixed Zn and Pb contamination are much lower than the China MEP or USEPA regulatory limit, irrespective of the curing time. The luminescent bacteria test results show that the toxicity of the stabilized soils has been reduced considerably and is classified as slightly toxic class. The unconfined compressive strength of the soils decrease with the increase in the Zn concentration. The stabilized soils with mixed Zn and Pb contaminants exhibit notably higher leached Zn concentration, while there is lower unconfined compressive strength relative to the soils when contaminated with Zn alone. The X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscope analyses reveal the presence of bobierrite (Mg3(PO4)2·8H2O) and K-struvite (MgKPO4·6H2O) as the main products formed in the KMP stabilized uncontaminated soils; the formation of hopeite (Zn3(PO4)2·4H2O), scholzite (CaZn2(PO4)2·2H2O), zinc hydroxide (Zn(OH)2), and fluoropyromorphite (Pb5(PO4)3F) in the soils are the main mechanisms for immobilization of Zn and Pb with the KMP binder. The change in the relative quantities of the formed phosphate-based products, with respect to the Zn concentration and presence of mixed Zn and Pb contaminants, can well explain the measured impact of the Zn concentration levels and presence of both Zn and Pb contaminants on the unconfined compressive strength of the KMP stabilized soils.

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