Stabilization/solidification (S/S) is a low-cost and high-efficiency remediation method for contaminated soils, however, conventional cement-based S/S method has environmental constraints and sustainability concerns. This study proposes a low-carbon, cement-free, clay-based approach for simultaneous S/S of As and Pb in the contaminated soil, and accordingly elucidates the chemical interactions between alkali-activated clay binders and potentially toxic elements. Quantitative X-ray diffraction and 27Al nuclear magnetic resonance analyses indicated that the addition of lime effectively activated the hydration of kaolinite clay, and the presence of limestone further enhanced the polymerization of hydrates. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy showed that approximately 19% of As[III] was oxidized to As[V] in the alkali-activated clay system, which reduced toxicity and facilitated immobilization of As. During the cement-free S/S process, As and Pb consumed Ca(OH)2 and precipitated as Ca3(AsO4)2·4H2O and Pb3(NO3)(OH)5, respectively, accounting for the low leachability of As (7.0%) and Pb (5.4%). However, the reduced amount of Ca(OH)2 decreased the degree of hydration of clay minerals, and the pH buffering capacity of the contaminated soil hindered the pH increase. Sufficient dosage of lime was required for ensuring satisfactory solidification and contaminant immobilization of the clay-based S/S products. The leachability of As and Pb in high-Ca S/S treated soil samples was reduced by 96.2% and 98.8%, respectively. This is the first study developing a green and cement-free S/S of As- and Pb-contaminated soil using clay minerals as an environmentally compatible binding material.
Keywords: Alkali-activated materials; Arsenic/lead leachability; Calcined clay; Green/sustainable remediation; Low-carbon contaminant immobilization; Waste valorization/recycling.
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