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Transport of colloids and colloid-facilitated heavy metals in agricultural soils: Could it be a potential causative factor for the chronic kidney disease with unknown etiology (CKDu) in Sri Lanka?
  • Banithy Balakrishnan,
  • Thilini Gunawardhana,
  • Chamindu Deepagoda Thuduwe Kankanamge
Banithy Balakrishnan
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Peradeniya
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Thilini Gunawardhana
Department of Civil Engineering
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Chamindu Deepagoda Thuduwe Kankanamge
Department of Civil Engineering

Corresponding Author:chamindu78@yahoo.com

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Naturally-occurring colloids, particles of diameter < 10μm, are ubiquitous in geo-environments and can potentially facilitate transport of numerous contaminants in soil including heavy metals, pesticides, pathogens etc. via Colloid-Facilitated Transport (CFT). The CFT of contaminants to groundwater is still an underrepresented transport domain and may lead to significant environmental and health problems related to groundwater contamination. Colloid mobilization, transport and CFT in various geomedia are highly sensitive to physico-chemical perturbations. This study investigated colloid transport and colloid-facilitated heavy metal transport in saturated porous media with a series of column experiments using soil colloids extracted from two areas affected by Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology (CKDu) in North Central Province of Sri Lanka. Colloid breakthrough curves were obtained from the column studies to observe the colloid transport under different flow rates (0.5±0.05, 1.65±0.05, 4.10±0.05 cm3/s) and ionic strengths (NaCl - 0.01 M, 0.05 M, 0.1 M). The CFT was studied using Cadmium (Cd(II)) as a model contaminant together with colloidal suspension under selected scenarios for high colloid deposition. Elevated colloid concentrations were observed in high CKDu affected area compared to the low endemic area. The experimental results were numerically simulated on an advection-diffusion/dispersion modelling framework coupled with first-order attachment, detachment and straining parameters inversely estimated using HYDRUS 1D software. Experimental and simulated colloid breakthrough curves showed a good agreement, and recognized colloid attachment as the key mechanism for colloid immobilization in selected soil. Both colloids and CFT of Cd(II) showed pronounced deposition under low flow rate and high ionic strength.