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Acidified lakes: sediment treatment with sodium carbonate — a remedy?

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Until now, additions of lime have been used to restore the buffering capacity of acidified lakes, but an alternative method which is more effective in the treatment of lakes with organogenic sediments has recently been applied in a full-scale experiment. The method, called CONTRACID, is based on the cation exchange properties of lake sediment. A sodium carbonate (soda ash) solution is injected into the sediment (by a harrow), so that the sediment becomes sodium stocked. A reverse exchange occurs during subsequent acidification. Liming has a limited effect on humic lakes, since Ca-humates have a reduced reverse exchange ability and also the lime, which remains undissolved, is rendered inactive.

Ionic exchange processes and nutrient transport were studied in water/sediment cores andin situ enclosures after additions of soda ash-, lye- and lime solutions with subsequent re-acidification. Sodium carbonate additions in laboratory systems resulted in a sorption to the sediment of 42–62% of the added sodium ions (5 eq m−2) and a release of 14–78 mg Pm−2 sediment. Similar results were obtained in the enclosures where phosphorus release stimulated algal growth. Sediment pH, elevated by the sodium base addition, was lowered by re-acidification. Limed systems released no phosphorus and only about 25% of the added lime remained active for future neutralization. With the injection of the sodium carbonate solution into the sediment, only about 12% of the added sodium was recovered in lake water by spring circulation. Lake water alkalinity was then 0.12 meq l−1 and pH 6.7. Total phosphorus had been raised by 0.007 mg P l−1 causing an increase in phytoplankton biomass.

Observations indicate that manipulations of acidic lake sediment according to the CONTRACID method create a long-lasting neutralizing capacity and a biological stimulation (through phosphorus release), which makes the method an attractive alternative to frequent liming.

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Lindmark, G.K. Acidified lakes: sediment treatment with sodium carbonate — a remedy?. Hydrobiologia 91, 537–547 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00940142

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  • lake acidification
  • neutralization
  • buffer capacity
  • liming
  • cation exchange
  • humic sediment
  • phosphorus