Chromated copper arsenate-treated fence posts in the agronomic landscape: soil properties controlling arsenic speciation and spatial distribution

J Environ Qual. Jul-Aug 2011;40(4):1172-81. doi: 10.2134/jeq2010.0455.


Soils adjacent to chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated fence posts along a fence line transecting different soil series, parent material, drainage classes, and slope were used to determine which soil properties had the most influence on As spatial distribution and speciation. Metal distribution was evaluated at macroscopic (total metal concentration contour maps) and microscopic scales (micro-synchrotron X-ray fluorescence maps), As speciation was determined using extended X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy, and redox status and a myriad of other basic soil properties were elucidated. All geochemical parameters measured point to a condition in which the mobilization of As becomes more favorable moving down the topographic gradient, likely resulting through competition (Meh-P, SOM), neutral or slightly basic pH, and redox conditions that are favorable for As mobilization (higher Fe(II) and total-Fe concentrations in water extracts). On the landscape scale, with hundreds of kilometers of fence, the arsenic loading into the soil can be substantial (∼8-12 kg km). Although a significant amount of the As is stable, extended use of CCA-treated wood has resulted in elevated As concentrations in the local environment, increasing the risk of exposure and ecosystem perturbation. Therefore, a move toward arsenic-free alternatives in agricultural applications for which it is currently permitted should be considered.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arsenates / chemistry*
  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Kentucky
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis
  • Soil / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Spectrometry, X-Ray Emission
  • Wood / chemistry


  • Arsenates
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • chromated copper arsenate
  • Arsenic