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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Heavy Metals in the Environment

Strontium Isotope Study of Coal Utilization By-Products Interacting with Environmental Waters


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 41 No. 1, p. 144-154
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: June 26, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): bstewart@pitt.edu
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  1. Lev J. Spivak-Birndorfa,
  2. Brian W. Stewart *a,
  3. Rosemary C. Capoa,
  4. Elizabeth C. Chapmana,
  5. Karl T. Schroederb and
  6. Tonya M. Brubakera
  1. a Dep. of Geology & Planetary Science, Univ. of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260
    b DOE/NETL, 626 Cochrans Mill Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15236; L.J. Spivak-Birndorf, current address: School of Earth & Space Exploration, Arizona State Univ., Tempe, AZ 85287. Assigned to Associate Editor Dan Kaplan


Sequential leaching experiments on coal utilization by-products (CUB) were coupled with chemical and strontium (Sr) isotopic analyses to better understand the influence of coal type and combustion processes on CUB properties and the release of elements during interaction with environmental waters during disposal. Class C fly ash tended to release the highest quantity of minor and trace elements—including alkaline earth elements, sodium, chromium, copper, manganese, lead, titanium, and zinc—during sequential extraction, with bottom ash yielding the lowest. Strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) in bulk-CUB samples (total dissolution of CUB) are generally higher in class F ash than in class C ash. Bulk-CUB ratios appear to be controlled by the geologic source of the mineral matter in the feed coal, and by Sr added during desulfurization treatments. Leachates of the CUB generally have Sr isotope ratios that are different than the bulk value, demonstrating that Sr was not isotopically homogenized during combustion. Variations in the Sr isotopic composition of CUB leachates were correlated with mobility of several major and trace elements; the data suggest that arsenic and lead are held in phases that contain the more radiogenic (high-87Sr/86Sr) component. A changing Sr isotope ratio of CUB-interacting waters in a disposal environment could forecast the release of certain strongly bound elements of environmental concern. This study lays the groundwork for the application of Sr isotopes as an environmental tracer for CUB–water interaction.

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