Establishment of a Vegetation Cover at the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund Site: Evaluation of Compost-Assisted Phytostabilization
AdvisorMaier, Raina M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 30-Oct-2018
AbstractMine tailings pose a health risk for populations and ecosystems in the Southwest; this is why effective, and low-cost solutions for the long term are needed. This work is groundbreaking since little information is available with regards to applying greenhouse studies of phytostabilization to the field for mine tailing remediation. Mine tailings from Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund (IKMHSS) site can be considered one of the worst scenarios due to the extreme conditions which prevent the growth of a vegetation cap. The high concentration of metals, such as arsenic and lead, highly acidic, lack of the nutrients carbon and nitrogen in the soil structure, and low microbial communities are factors that negatively affect plant growth. This project provides practical field-scale applications for the use of phytostabilization, which uses plants to create a vegetation cap that stabilizes metals in the root zone while preventing wind and water erosion in mine tailings. The project is divided into three main studies: (1) the assessment of the translation of successful greenhouse results to the field of phytostabilization using compost-assisted direct planting. This includes the use of different rates of compost as an amendment and different desert native plant species in addition to some potential parameters that could be used as indicators of a successful modification of biochemical and physical environment from a disturbed soil towards a more healthy soil when compost assisted direct planting phytostabilization is used; (2) the second study aims to evaluate the effect of the phytostabilization strategy on reducing windborne transport of particle and metal(loids) following the establishment of the vegetation cap. The results indicate that the vegetation resulted from direct planting decreases dust emissions from IKMHSS mine tailings; and (3) the third study focuses on one of the most important requirements for phytostabilization application in the field, the performance of the different plant species selected from the greenhouse studies. This performance was evaluated as the metal accumulation in aerial plant tissue based on metal concentration guidelines from the National Research Council as well as changes in the composition of plant species and canopy cover with time. The results derived from the translation of compost–assisted direct plating based on successful greenhouse results are showing the capacity of this technology on a field scale by maintaining a canopy cover over time that decreases mobilization by not hyper-accumulating metals in the aerial tissue and by preventing windborne particle dispersion with the potential of disrupting contamination pathways.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Soil, Water and Environmental Science