Analytical Results for Agricultural Soils Samples from a Monitoring Program Near Deer Trail, Colorado (USA)

Open-File Report 2009-1111

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Since late 1993, Metro Wastewater Reclamation District of Denver (Metro District, MWRD), a large wastewater treatment plant in Denver, Colorado, has applied Grade I, Class B biosolids to about 52,000 acres of nonirrigated farmland and rangeland near Deer Trail, Colorado, USA. In cooperation with the Metro District in 1993, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began monitoring groundwater at part of this site. In 1999, the USGS began a more comprehensive monitoring study of the entire site to address stakeholder concerns about the potential chemical effects of biosolids applications to water, soil, and vegetation. This more comprehensive monitoring program has recently been extended through 2010. Monitoring components of the more comprehensive study include biosolids collected at the wastewater treatment plant, soil, crops, dust, alluvial and bedrock groundwater, and stream bed sediment. Soils for this study were defined as the plow zone of the dry land agricultural fields - the top twelve inches of the soil column. This report presents analytical results for the soil samples collected at the Metro District farm land near Deer Trail, Colorado, during three separate sampling events during 1999, 2000, and 2002. Soil samples taken in 1999 were to be a representation of the original baseline of the agricultural soils prior to any biosolids application. The soil samples taken in 2000 represent the soils after one application of biosolids to the middle field at each site and those taken in 2002 represent the soils after two applications. There have been no biosolids applied to any of the four control fields. The next soil sampling is scheduled for the spring of 2010. Priority parameters for biosolids identified by the stakeholders and also regulated by Colorado when used as an agricultural soil amendment include the total concentrations of nine trace elements (arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, and zinc), plutonium isotopes, and gross alpha and beta activity (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division, 1997; Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,1998; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1993). Since these were the identified priority parameters for the biosolids, the soils have the same set of priority parameters. Although the composite soils' priority analytes have been reported earlier to Metro District, the remaining elemental datasets for both the composite soils samples and selected fields' individual subsamples' data are presented here for the first time. More information about the other monitoring components is presented elsewhere in the literature ( In general, the objective of each component of the study was to determine whether concentrations of priority parameters (1) were higher than regulatory limits, (2) were increasing with time, and(or) (3) were significantly higher in biosolids-applied areas than in a similar farmed area where biosolids were not applied. The method chosen for sampling the soils proved to be an efficient and reliable representation of the average composition of each field. This was shown by analyzing individual subsamples, averaging the resulting values, and then comparing the values to the composited samples' values. The soil chemistry shows distinct differences between the two sites, most likely due to the different underlying parent material. Biosolids data were used to compile an inorganic-chemical biosolids signature that can be contrasted with the geochemical signature of the agricultural soils for this site. The biosolids signature and an understanding of the geology and hydrology of the site can be used to separate biosolids effects from natural geochemical effects. Elements of particular interest for a biosolids signature after application in the soils include bismuth, copper, silver, mercury, and phosphorus. This signat

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USGS Numbered Series
Analytical Results for Agricultural Soils Samples from a Monitoring Program Near Deer Trail, Colorado (USA)
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey
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Crustal Imaging and Characterization
iv, 147 p.
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