Acetochlor as a soil pollutant
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The agricultural use of pesticides leads to diffuse pollution whereby the various contaminants of the soil infiltrate into the groundwater reaching lakes and drinking water aquifers. Due to the extensive application of these chemicals, their leaching presents a high environmental risk.
Since the adsorption coefficient (K) characterizes the soil / water partitioning  and is also representative for leaching, the first step in understanding of the environmental fate of a pollutant is to study its adsorption properties. Weak binding to the soil constituents (low K) leads to groundwater pollution, while a strong binding (high K) results in surface water pollution through the erosion of the soil.
Acetochlor is a widely used herbicide all over the world. Similar to other organic pollutants, the environmental fate of this chemical is strongly related to its adsorption properties.
Static adsorption equilibrium measurements were carried out at 25°C on different types of Hungarian soils (chernozem, brown forest and sandy soil) characterized by varying amounts of organic matter and pH values.
Acetochlor solutions were prepared in the presence of nitrate and phosphate ions (0.1 mol/L sodium nitrate and 0.1 mol/L phosphate uffer, pH=7) which are constituents of fertilizers occurring in high concentrations in the environment. In order to appreciate their effect, adsorption studies were also performed in pure aqueous medium. The equilibrated liquid was analyzed after centrifugation by two different methods (Total Organic Carbon measurement, High Performance Liquid Chromatography).
Isotherms obtained under different conditions, as well as on various soils, exhibit a similar shape, thus indicating a two-step adsorption process. The plots cannot be interpreted according to the classes of isotherms suggested by Giles (H-, L- and C-type, ). The adsorption coefficients were estimated from the initial slope of the curves. These values were determined not only by the type of the soil, but also by the composition of the aqueous media.
Due to the low value of the adsorption coefficients, the acetochlor is a rather mobile pollutant of the soil posing a potential danger to the aquatic environment.
The organic matter adsorption coefficients (Kom)  were also calculated and they were approximately identical for soils of high organic matter. For the chernozem and brown forest soils, the values of the K and Kom parameters are increasing in the order from water < phosphate buffer < sodium nitrate.
For soils of low organic content, the similarity of the Kom values cannot be expected (due to the hyperbolic nature of the equation) as the data really indicate it for the adsorption behavior of the sandy soil. Here, the organic matter plays a less important role and the adsorption is controlled by the solute / inorganic substance interactions. This conclusion is nicely proved by the adsorption of the acetochlor on quartz resulting thereby in a similar plot being obtained for the soils.
According to the hypothesis presented here, the first step of the isotherms is controlled by the solute / surface interactions while the solute / adsorbed solute interactions are operating in the second step of the isotherm. The role of the organic matter in this region of the isotherm is probably negligible.
The comparison of the adsorption coefficients leads to the conclusion that the presence of nitrate and phosphate ions enhances the adsorption of acetochlor on the soils containing a high percentage of organic matter. As these ions are present in the environment due to the extensive use of fertilizers, they may increase the acetochlor pollution of water by erosion. This conclusion corroborates those earlier observations that reported frequent acetochlor contamination of the surface waters [4–5].
As the organic matter content of the soils plays an important role in the acetochlor adsorption, humic substances must have a strong influence on the transport of this compound. Experiments to obtain adsorption isotherms of further pesticides and the development of a quantitative model are in progress.
KeywordsHumic Substance Environmental Fate Sodium Nitrate Adsorption Coefficient Brown Forest Soil
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