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Runoff and Nutrient Losses from Constructed Soils Amended with Compost

DOI: 10.1155/2012/542873

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Composted organic materials used to stabilize roadside embankments in Texas promote rapid revegetation of soils disturbed by construction activities. Yet, adding compost to soil may increase total and soluble plant nutrients available for loss in runoff water. Composted municipal biosolids and dairy manure products were applied to soils in Texas according to prescribed Texas Department of Transportation specifications for stabilizing roadside soils. The specifications included a method for incorporating compost into soils prior to seeding or applying a compost and woodchip mix over a disturbed soil and then seeding. Applying compost and woodchips over the soil surface limited sediment losses (14 to 32 fold decrease) compared to incorporating compost into the soil. Yet, the greatest total phosphorus and nitrogen losses in runoff water occurred from soils where the compost and woodchip mix was applied. The greatest losses of soluble phosphorus also occurred when the compost and woodchip mix was applied. In contrast, nitrate-nitrogen losses in runoff were similar when compost was incorporated in the soil or applied in the woodchip mix. Compost source affected the nutrient losses in runoff. While the composted municipal biosolids added greater nutrient loads to the soil, less nutrient loss in runoff occurred. 1. Introduction State Departments of Transportation (SDOT) are mandated to manage highway construction sites as potential nonpoint pollution sources. Soil particulate loads are often the greatest fraction of soil components in runoff from highway construction sites [1]. Soil erosion can occur when disturbed soils are unprotected from rainfall and flowing water. Silt fences, straw mulch, and material blankets are among several practices used to control erosion [2]. Additionally, composted biosolids and blends of biosolids with yard waste are among materials top-dressed or incorporated on constructed soil slopes to control erosion and enhance vegetation establishment [3–5]. Persyn et al. [5] reported 5 or 10?cm blankets of composted biosolids, yard waste, or industrial waste reduced runoff water and sediment compared to exposed subsoil or imported topsoil to high-way construction sites. In a complementary report, Glanville et al. [3] reported top-dressing composted materials decreased nutrient loss in runoff water during a simulated 30?min rain event compared to excavated soil alone. Specifications for the composition and application of composted materials to soil on construction sites vary among SDOTs [6]. Generally, application rates are depth- or

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