Effects of divalent metal cations and inorganic anions on the transport of tetracycline in saturated porous media: column experiments and numerical simulations†
Tetracycline is one of the most commonly used antibiotics in the world. Eventually, large amounts of this contaminant will enter into the subsurface environment, where a variety of ions exist. In this study, the effects of divalent metal cations (Mg2+, Ca2+, Pb2+ and Cu2+) and inorganic anions (Cl−, NO3−, SO42− and H2PO4−) on the transport of tetracycline in saturated porous media were investigated. Both batch and column experiments were conducted to determine the interactions between tetracycline and sand. Batch sorption experimental results showed that the presence of divalent metal cations could increase the sorption of tetracycline onto sand due to the cation-bridging mechanism. When Na+ was the counterion in the background solution, anions caused a significant decrease in tetracycline sorption owing to the occupation of some adsorption sites by anions and the decrease of electrostatic attraction. Column experiments indicated that the inhibition effects of divalent cations followed the order of Cu2+ > Pb2+ > Ca2+ ≈ Mg2+; the regular pattern might be related to their different complexing strengths. The presence of inorganic anions enhanced the mobility of tetracycline following the order of H2PO4− > SO42− > NO3− > Cl−. Transport-enhancement effects of anions were ascribed to competition between inorganic anions and tetracycline for deposition sites on sand surfaces. However, when Ca2+ was the counterion, the differences in the breakthrough curve of tetracycline among three inorganic anions (i.e., SO42−, NO3− and Cl−) were very small. In this case, the transport-inhibiting effects of anions could be counterbalanced by the transport-enhancement effects of the cation-bridging effect. Also, the two-site nonequilibrium transport model was applied to analyze the transport data. Findings from this study improve our understanding of the transport of tetracycline in saturated aquifer materials.