Organic nature of colloidal actinides transported in surface water environments. Academic Article uri icon


  • Elevated levels of (239,240)Pu and 241Am have been present in surficial soils of the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site (RFETS), CO, since the 1960s, when soils were locally contaminated in the 1960s by leaking drums stored on the 903 Pad. Further dispersion of contaminated soil particles was by wind and water. From 1998 until 2001, we examined actinide ((239,240)Pu and 241Am) concentrations and phase speciation in the surface environment at RFETS through field studies and laboratory experiments. Measurements of total (239,240)Pu and 241Am concentrations in storm runoff and pond discharge samples, collected during spring and summer times in 1998-2000, demonstrate that most of the (239,240)Pu and 241Am transported from contaminated soils to streams occurred in the particulate (> or = 0.45 microm; 40-90%) and colloidal (approximately 2 nm or 3 kDa to 0.45 microm; 10-60%) phases. Controlled laboratory investigations of soil resuspension, which simulated storm and erosion events, confirmed that most of the Pu in the 0.45 microm filter-passing phase was in the colloidal phase (> or = 80%) and that remobilization of colloid-bound Pu during soil erosion events can be greatly enhanced by humic and fulvic acids present in these soils. Most importantly, isoelectric focusing experiments of radiolabeled colloidal matter extracted from RFETS soils revealed that colloidal Pu is in the four-valent state and is mostly associated with a negatively charged organic macromolecule with a pH(IEP) of 3.1 and a molecular weight of 10-15 kDa, rather than with the more abundant inorganic (iron oxide and clay) colloids. This finding has important ramifications for possible remediation, erosion controls, and land-management strategies.

published proceedings

  • Environ Sci Technol

author list (cited authors)

  • Santschi, P. H., Roberts, K. A., & Guo, L.

citation count

  • 93

complete list of authors

  • Santschi, Peter H||Roberts, Kimberly A||Guo, Laodong

publication date

  • September 2002