British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Tools for assessing soil metal bio-availability Doram, Dale


Metals or trace elements are natural constituents and occur throughout the biosphere. While metals or trace elements are naturally present in our environment, in some instances they are elevated above provincial or federal generic soil quality guidelines due to industrial processes like air emissions. Theoretically, elevated soil metal concentrations above generic guidelines mean there could be potential local impacts to terrestrial or aquatic receptors. Since generic regulatory guidelines are derived by analyzing “total” soil metals using strong acid digests, they do not consider the chemical form and bio-availability of the specific metals on a site-specific basis. Using case studies and the literature, the limitations of using generic soil metal guidelines to assess site-specific receptor impacts will be discussed. Two tools for evaluating metal bio-availability, sequential extraction and bio-assays, are discussed. These tools can be used in setting site-specific remediation objectives for a site that exceeds generic regulatory criteria.

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