Effect of pH, competitive anions and NOM on the leaching of arsenic from solid residuals

Amlan Ghosh, A. Eduardo Sáez, Wendell Ela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Implementation of the new arsenic MCL in 2006 will lead to the generation of an estimated 6 million pounds of arsenic-bearing solid residuals (ABSRs) every year, which will be disposed predominantly in non-hazardous landfills. The Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) is typically used to assess whether a waste is hazardous and most solid residuals pass the TCLP. However, recent research shows the TCLP significantly underestimates arsenic mobilization in landfills. A variety of compositional dissimilarities between landfill leachates and the TCLP extractant solution likely play a role. Among the abiotic factors likely to play a key role in arsenic remobilization/leaching from solid sorbents are pH, and the concentrations of natural organic matter (NOM) and anions like phosphate, bicarbonate, sulfate and silicate. This study evaluates the desorption of arsenic from actual treatment sorbents, activated alumina (AA) and granular ferric hydroxide (GFH), which are representative of those predicted for use in arsenic removal processes, and as a function of the specific range of pH and concentrations of the competitive anions and NOM found in landfills. The influence of pH is much more significant than that of competing anions or NOM. An increase in one unit of pH may increase the fraction of arsenic leached by 3-4 times. NOM and phosphate replace arsenic from sorbent surface sites up to three orders of magnitude more than bicarbonate, sulfate and silicate, on a per mole basis. Effects of anions are neither additive nor purely competitive. Leaching tests, which compare the fraction of arsenic mobilized by the TCLP vis-a-vis an actual or more realistic synthetic landfill leachate, indicate that higher pH, and greater concentrations of anions and NOM are all factors, but of varying significance, in causing higher extraction in landfill and synthetic leachates than the TCLP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-59
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - May 15 2006


  • Activated alumina
  • Anions
  • Arsenic
  • GFH
  • Leaching
  • NOM
  • pH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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