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Arsenic contamination in surface drainage and groundwater in part of the SE Asian tin belt, Nakon Si Thammarat Province, Southern Thailand

Williams, Martin; Fordyce, Fiona; Paijitprapapon, Anong; Charoenchaisri, Prakmard. 1996 Arsenic contamination in surface drainage and groundwater in part of the SE Asian tin belt, Nakon Si Thammarat Province, Southern Thailand. Environmental Geology, 27 (1). 16-33.

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Abstract/Summary

The occurrence of human health problems resulting from arsenic contamination of domestic water supplies in Ron Phibun District, Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, southern Thailand was first recognized in 1987. The area has an extensive history of bedrock and alluvial mining, the waste from which is typically rich in arsenopyrite and related alteration products. In 1994 a collaborative study was instigated involving Thai and British government authorities to establish the distribution and geochemical form of As in surface drainage and aquifer systems in the affected area, the probable sources of As contamination, and the potential for problem alleviation. Hydrochemical analyses of surface- and groundwaters have confirmed the presence of dissolved As at concentrations exceeding WHO potable water guidelines by up to a factor of 500. Contamination of the shallow alluvial aquifer system is systematically more severe than the underlying carbonate-hosted aquifer. Deep boreholes may therefore provide the best available potable water source for the local population. The presence of up to 39% of total As as arsenite (H3AsO3) within the carbonate aquifer may, however, constitute a ‘hidden’ toxicological risk, not evident in the shallow groundwater (in which arsenate species account for > 95% of total As). Mineralogical investigations of As-rich tailings and flotation wastes were undertaken to evaluate their likely impact on water quality. The results indicate that although some flotation wastes contain up to 30% As, the rate of leaching is extremely low. Consequently the As loading of drainage emanating from such waste is below the subregional average. Analyses of the silty alluvium that covers much of the central sector of the study area have highlighted As concentrations of up to 5000 mg kg-1, probably carried by disseminated arsenopyrite. Following sulfide dissolution, the mobility of As in this material may be high (with resultant contamination of shallow groundwater) due to the low Fe content of the soil. On the basis of the data acquired, a range of pollution mitigation schemes are currently under investigation including Fe supplementation of alluvium and microbial degradation of disseminated arsenopyrite.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Programmes: BGS Programmes > International
ISSN: 0943-0105
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 06 Aug 2012 09:29
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/19010

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