Occurrence of arsenic and phosphorus in ditch flow from litter-amended soils and barn areas

J Environ Qual. 2010 Nov-Dec;39(6):2080-8. doi: 10.2134/jeq2009.0210.


Little is known about the fate of arsenic (As) in land-applied litter from chickens that have been fed roxarsone, an organic feed additive containing As. This study seeks to elucidate the transfer of As in runoff from ditch-drained soils of the poultry-producing region of the Delmarva Peninsula by tracking As and phosphorus (P) export from seven drainage ditches over two water-years (1 July 2005 to 30 June 2007). Annual losses of As from ditches ranged from 0.004 to 0.071 kg ha(-1) while P losses ranged from 0.33 to 18.56 kg ha(-1), with the largest loads associated with a litter storage shed that served as a point source. Event-based As and P losses in ditch flow fluctuated by a factor of 162 and 1882, respectively. The two elements were correlated in flow from the ditch draining a litter storage shed (r = 0.99), and in sediment extracts in soils near the litter shed (r = 0.73), pointing to similar behavior under point source conditions. Indeed, As and P exhibited similar behavior within storms for all ditches, characterized by relatively high initial concentrations subject to rapid concentration declines before peak flow, consistent with dilution of a finite source. However, As and P concentrations varied significantly between ditches and showed considerable temporal variability within ditches, with no clear seasonal trends or associations with current management strategies. The results suggest that similar management strategies might be effective for As and P point sources, but that field management practices geared toward controlling nonpoint source P losses may not readily transfer to the control of As losses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Arsenic / chemistry*
  • Chickens
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Floors and Floorcoverings
  • Housing, Animal*
  • Phosphorus / chemistry*
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Time Factors
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry*


  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Phosphorus
  • Arsenic