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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 4, p. 1305-1313
    Received: May 8, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): scomfort@unl.edu
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Remediating Munitions-Contaminated Soil with Zerovalent Iron and Cationic Surfactants

  1. J. Park,
  2. S. D. Comfort *,
  3. P. J. Shea and
  4. T. A. Machacek
  1. School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, 256 Keim Hall, Lincoln, NE 68583-0915


Soils contaminated from military operations often contain mixtures of HMX (octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine), RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine), and TNT (2,4,6-trinitrotoluene) rather than a single explosive. Differences among explosives in solubility and reactivity make developing a single remediation treatment difficult. When Fe0 was used to treat a munitions-contaminated soil, we observed high rates of destruction for RDX and TNT (98%) but not HMX. Our objective was to determine if HMX destruction by Fe0 could be enhanced by increasing HMX solubility by physical (temperature) or chemical (surfactants) means. To determine electron acceptor preference, we treated RDX and HMX with Fe0 in homogeneous solutions and binary mixtures. Increasing aqueous temperature (20 to 55°C) increased HMX solubility (2 to 22 mg L−1) but did not increase destruction by Fe0 in a contaminated soil slurry that also contained RDX and TNT. Batch experiments using equal molar concentrations of RDX and HMX demonstrated that RDX was preferentially reduced over HMX by Fe0 By testing various surfactants, we found that the cationic surfactants (HDTMA [hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide], didecyl, and didodecyl) were most effective in increasing HMX concentration in solution. Didecyl and HDTMA were also found to be highly effective in facilitating the transformation of HMX by Fe0 Using HDTMA or didecyl solutions (3%, w/v) containing solid-phase HMX, we observed that 100% of the added HMX was transformed by Fe0 in the didecyl matrix and 60% in the HDTMA matrix. These results indicate that cationic surfactants can increase HMX solubility and facilitate Fe0–mediated transformation kinetics but HMX destruction rates will be slowed when RDX is present.

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Copyright © 2004. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA