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-Do not drain well - Retain large amounts of water for long periods - Aeration in these soils is limited - Processes such as organic decomposition,, ammonia, volatilization, and nitrification are retarded. Although clay particles are active sites for ion exchange and adsorption, the effective adsorption of dissolved materials is reduced since the water molecules are polar and compete for adsorption.


-Conduct large quantities of air and water, and oxidative processes are encouraged. - At the same time the rates of evaporation, lateral transmissibility, and percolation are higher.

As a rule, passage through the soil profile results in purification of water because of -Adsorption - Volatilization - Decomposition or degredation - Nitrification - Denitrification - Plant uptake

Adsorption-desorption The interaction between the chemicals in water and the soil through which the water passes largely determines water quality changes within the soil profile. The adsorption process entails the removal of chemicals at solution and retention on the surface of soil particles by chemical or physical bonding. If the bonds formed between the adsorbate and soil are chemical, the process is almost always irreversible. If the bonds are physical, by weak Van der Waals forces, the chemicals are easily removed or desorbed a change in solution concentration of the adsorbate.

Absorption is the process in which a fluid is dissolved by a liquid or a solid (absorbent). Adsorption is the process in which atoms, ions or molecules from a substance (it could be gas, liquid or dissolved solid) adhere to a surface of the adsorbent. Adsorption is a surface-based process where a film of adsorbate is created on the surface while absorption involves the entire volume of the absorbing substance. Adsorption, the binding of molecules or particles to a surface, must be distinguished from absorption, the filling of pores in a solid. The binding to the surface is usually weak and reversible.

Desorption is a phenomenon whereby a substance is released from or through a surface. The process is the opposite of sorption (that is, either adsorption or absorption). This occurs in a system being in the state of sorption equilibrium between bulk phase (fluid, i.e. gas or liquid solution) and an adsorbing surface (solid or boundary separating two fluids). When the concentration (or pressure) of substance in the bulk phase is lowered, some of the sorbed substance changes to the bulk state.

The quantity of a chemical that can be adsorbed by soil depends on concentration of adsorbate and soil temperature . In most research on the adsorption-desorption process, the amount of a chemical asorbed is determined as a reaction of concentration at a constant temperature, and the resulting function is called an adsorption isotherm.

The most common representation of the adsorption-desorption process in soil is the Freundlich isotherm: = kc1/n
Where X is the amount of chemical adsorbed M is the amount of the soil adsorbent c is the equilibrium concentration of adsorbate in solution after adsorption k and n are empirical constants

Organic wastes, pesticides, ammonia, and phosphorous are adsorbed to an extent dependent on the clay content, organic matter content, and cation-exchange capacity of the soil. Adsorption usually assures that chemicals remain in the soil long enough for processes such as decomposition and plant uptake to occur.

Volatilization The loss of a chemical from the soil-water system by vaporization into the atmosphere is termed volatilization. Certain chemicals move to the soil surface by diffusion or mass flow.

Volatilization is the process whereby a dissolved sample is vaporised. In atomic spectroscopy this is usually a two step process. The analyte is turned into small droplets in a nebuliser which are entrained in a gas flow which is in turn volatilised in a high temperature flame in the case of AAS or volatilised in a gas plasma torch in the case of ICP spectroscopy.

At the surface the rate of volatilization q of a chemical may be approximated by the equation Q=-kv ym-1/2 Where kv is a wind and temperature-dependent vaporization constant for the chemical y is the saturation vapor concentration m is the molecular weight of the chemical

A high volatilization rate requires that vaporized chemicals move away from the soil surface so that additional chemicals can move into the vapor phase. Consequently, wind speed is a critical determinant of volatilization rate. Volatilization can remove large quantities of chemicals such as ammonia and pesticides from the soil, particularly during the initial period after application.

Decomposition or degredatrion. Organic materials in the soil break down to form carbon dioxide, water, inorganic elements such as nitrogen and chloride. Degredation rates depend on soil temperature, moisture, strength of binding by soils, soil type, and soil microorganisms. Oxidation, hydrolysis, and microbial enzyme action are the most common methods of degradation. In many soils the combined processes of adsorption and degredation can remove 99 percent or more of the organic content of heavily polluted water.

Nitrification. The two-step process in which ammonia NH2 is oxidized to Nitrite NO2 and then to nitrate NO3 is termed nitrification. This is an important reaction in the soil-water system because a largely immobile form of nitrogen (ammonia) is converted to a highly mobile form (nitrate) which may be absorbed by plants or lost by leaching and denitrification.

Nitrification is a two-step process. The first stage is the oxidation of ammonium (NH4+) to nitrite (NO2-), a function carried out by bacteria in the genus Nitrosomonas. The nitrite formed is rapidly oxidized to nitrate (NO3-) by bacteria in the genus Nitrobacter. Because nitrate and nitrite are much more mobile in soils than ammonium, nitrification can be viewed as a process that mobilizes nitrogen, making it more available for plant uptake but potentially allowing it to leach from the ecosystem. The latter is an undesirable attribute of nitrification because fixed nitrogen is an important component of the nutrient capital of ecosystems. In addition, large concentrations of nitrate or nitrite can pollute groundwater and surface waters.

Denitrification The denitrification process involves the conversion of nitrate to gaseous nitrogen species such as elementl nitrogen gas, nitrous oxide, or nitric acis. A relatively large group of bacteria accomplish denitrifiaction by using niutrate as an oxygen source in their respiration. Biological denitrification can cause a 5 to 10 percent reduction in total nitrogen in percolating water.

Denitrification also becomes the key pathway for dissimilative nitrate reduction, which is the process in which nitrates are reduced from the soil, the former being highly toxic for living organisms. Denitrification tends to produce large amounts of by-products. The process of denitrification lowers the fertility of the soil and thus is less common in areas where the land is rather well-cultivated. But this loss of nitrogen to the atmosphere can eventually be regained via introduced food and water, as part of the nitrogen cycle.

Plant uptake In soils with heavy vegetal cover, the major mechanism for removal of inorganic nitrogen and phosphorous is uptake by plants. Flow of water toward roots in response to transpiration results in the transport of non adsorbed nutrients with high solubilities, such as nitrate. Diffusion is the most active mechanisms for transporting adsorbed species (e.g. phosphorous, potassium, iron) to plant roots.

Table 15-4 demonstrates the overall effectiveness of chemical removal during percolation. The data indicate a high degree of purification for water carrying an extreme chemical burden, i.e. domestic wastewater. Data are provided for the effectiveness of two land application processes for wastewater treatment i.e. slow rate application and rapid infiltration. Slow rate application is the application of wastewater to vegetated lands with moderate permeability. Rapid infiltration refers to application to highly permeable soils with minimal vegetation. Since natural waters carry a much lighter chemical, burden than wastewater, a high degree of purification can be expected for most waters passing through the soil during the runoff cycle.