The interaction of heavy metals with urban soils: sorption behaviour of Cd, Cu, Cr, Pb and Zn with a typical mixed brownfield deposit

Julita Markiewicz-Patkowska, Andrew Hursthouse, Hanna Przybyla-Kij

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108 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated the sorption characteristics and release of selected heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Cr, Pb and Zn) from a typical urban soil material from a derelict brownfield site in Western Scotland, UK. The study aimed to evaluate contaminant interactions with an urban substrate, comprising a mix of mineral soil and residue materials (e.g. brick, concrete, wood). This type of material has received little consideration in the literature to date. Soil samples were subject to a sequence of test involving batch equilibration and dynamic leaching, in single (non-competitive) and multi-element (competitive) solutions. The batch experiments were carried out in unadjusted and close to soil field pH conditions (pH 2 and 7, respectively). The equilibrium adsorption capacity for heavy metals was measured and extrapolated using the Langmuir isotherm. The parameters of the isotherms xm (the maximum amount adsorbed per unit mass of adsorbent (mg/g)) and b (adsorption constant (m3/g)) were calculated for Cd, Cu, Cr, Pb as single-element and multi-element solutions. The adsorption from the single-element solution was more effective than adsorption under multi-element conditions, due to competitive effects. For example, the adsorption of copper from a single-element solution was over four times greater than for a multi-element solution. In the case of Cr and Zn, migration of metal from soil to solution was observed. Adsorption capacity at pH 2 followed the order Cr>Cu>Pb>Cd and at pH 7 Cd>Zn, with precipitation affecting Cu and Pb behaviour. During the column leaching experiment, most of the heavy metals were irreversibly bound to the soil, but in the case of Cr some movement from soil into solution was observed. The results also showed that Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn were removed from the solution and adsorbed on the soil. No significant difference in the metal removal from single- and multi-element solutions was observed. Overall, the urban residue behaved in a similar manner to mineral soils despite a significant component of anthropogenic solid materials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-521
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironment International
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2005


  • heavy metal mobility
  • urban soil
  • adsorption
  • isotherm model
  • groundwater contamination


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