The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Metro Wastewater Reclamation District and North Kiowa Bijou Groundwater Management District, studied natural geochemical effects and the effects of biosolids applications to the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District properties near Deer Trail, Colorado, during 1999 through 2003 because of public concern about potential contamination of soil, crops, ground water, and surface water from biosolids applications. Parameters analyzed for each monitoring component included arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, and zinc (the nine trace elements regulated by Colorado for biosolids), gross alpha and gross beta radioactivity, and plutonium, as well as other parameters.
Concentrations of the nine regulated trace elements in biosolids were relatively uniform and did not exceed applicable regulatory standards. All plutonium concentrations in biosolids were below the minimum detectable level and were near zero. The most soluble elements in biosolids were arsenic, molybdenum, nickel, phosphorus, and selenium. Elevated concentrations of bismuth, mercury, phosphorus, and silver would be the most likely inorganic biosolids signature to indicate that soil or streambed sediment has been affected by biosolids. Molybdenum and tungsten, and to a lesser degree antimony, cadmium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel, phosphorus, and selenium, would be the most likely inorganic 'biosolids signature' to indicate ground water or surface water has been affected by biosolids.
Soil data indicate that biosolids have had no measurable effect on the concentration of the constituents monitored. Arsenic concentrations in soil of both Arapahoe and Elbert County monitoring sites (like soil from all parts of Colorado) exceed the Colorado soil remediation objectives and soil cleanup standards, which were determined by back-calculating a soil concentration equivalent to a one-in-a-million cumulative cancer risk. Lead concentrations in soil slightly exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency toxicity-derived ecological soil-screening levels for avian wildlife. Plutonium concentration in the soil was near zero.
Wheat-grain data were insufficient to determine any measurable effects from biosolids. Comparison with similar data from other parts of North America where biosolids were not applied indicates similar concentrations. However, the Deer Trail study area had higher nickel concentrations in wheat from both the biosolids-applied fields and the control fields. Plutonium content of the wheat was near zero.
Ground-water levels generally declined at most wells during 1999 through 2003. Ground-water quality did not correlate with ground-water levels. Vertical ground-water gradients during 1999 through 2003 indicate that bedrock ground-water resources downgradient from the biosolids-applied areas are not likely to be contaminated by biosolids applications unless the gradients change as a result of pumping.
Ground-water quality throughout the study area varied over time at each site and from site to site at the same time, but plutonium concentrations in the ground water always were near zero. Inorganic concentrations at well D6 were relatively high compared to other ground-water sites studied. Ground-water pH and concentrations of fluoride, nitrite, aluminum, arsenic, barium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, zinc, and plutonium in the ground water of the study area met Colorado standards. Concentrations of chloride, sulfate, nitrate, boron, iron, manganese, and selenium exceeded Colorado ground-water standards at one or more wells. Nitrate concentrations at well D6 significantly (alpha = 0.05) exceeded the Colorado regulatory standard. Concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc in ground water had no significant (alpha = 0.05) upward trends. During 1999-2003, concentrations of nitrate, copper, molybdenum, and selenium
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USGS Numbered Series
Effects of surface applications of biosolids on soil, crops, ground water, and streambed sediment near Deer Trail, Colorado, 1999-2003