|MadSci Network: Environment|
Hydrochloric acid is a strong acid. That means it dissociates completely in water releasing H (protons) and Cl (anions) Clay in soil acts as a colloid and creates many cation exchange sites. The high concentration H ions could easily displace many of the other cations on the exchange sites. Thus important substances such as calcium and magnesium (two dominant cations that are important plant nutrients) as well as cations that may cause damage (aluminum is more soluble under acidi conditions) will be mobilized and perhaps leached.
Use of lime, which is probably calcium carbonate is a good neutralizer, but very large amounts would be required.
In addition the low pH in the soil would kill many soil organisms The probability of long term effects on the site is pretty good since the soil took many years to form and now it will take many years to recover. Off-site problems are completely dependent on the nature of the spill. Was it contained, how far did it leach into the soil, Was it neutralized shortly after the spill or not. What was the weather like after the spill. Was there enough rain to flush materials through the soil. It is somewhat difficult to answer this question specifically beacuse there are so many variables.
I hope this has been of some help in any case.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Environment .