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Problems associated with selenium leaching from waste shale


, : Problems associated with selenium leaching from waste shale. Proceedings of the Annual National Meeting - American Society for Surface Mining and Reclamation 17(Pages 71-82

Leachates from overburden waste rock originating from phosphorus mining activities containing selenium-bearing shale contributed to the dispersion of selenium (Se) in downstream environments. Surface waters and sediments impacted by waste rock leachates contained significantly elevated levels of Se that are above the back-ground levels of local non-contaminated streams and soils. Transects placed across a stream flowing through pastures were sampled to examine Se concentrations in upland (e.g., native), midslope, and low-lying areas that were impacted by the contaminated waters. Soils in upland and midslope sites that were unaffected by the waste shale leachates had bioavailable (i.e., phosphate extractable) Se concentrations that were approximately 0.1 mg/kg soil, where as low-lying sites had levels ranging from 0.5 to 2.6 mg/kg soil. Se levels in stream sediments (e.g., muck samples) were extremely high at concentrations between 6.0 and 7.2 mg/kg. Additional sampling indicated that plant Se contents within the contaminated sites were also high: ranges included 20 to 170 mg Se/kg for grasses and 40 to 210 mg Se/kg for forbs. Additional soils were also examined, with one stream-side location having soil Se levels as high as 14 mg/kg. Contaminated soils and associated vegetation Se levels are well above the concentrations recommended as suitable, e.g., 0.4 mg Se/kg for soils and 5 mg Se/kg for plants. Horses grazing in the Se-enriched pastures were susceptible to selenosis, a form of Se poisoning. Many of the horses that were poisoned from drinking the Se-contaminated waters and foraging on the vegetation with excessive Se had to be euthanized. Results are presented on the conditions that caused this unfortunate situation.

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