Arsenic associations in sediments from the loess aquifer of La Pampa, Argentina

Smedley, P.L.; Kinniburgh, D.G.; Macdonald, D.M.J.; Nicolli, H.B.; Barros, A.J.; Tullio, J.O.; Pearce, J.M.; Alonso, M.S.. 2005 Arsenic associations in sediments from the loess aquifer of La Pampa, Argentina. Applied Geochemistry, 20 (5). 989-1016.

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Groundwater from the Quaternary loess aquifer of La Pampa, central Argentina, has significant problems with high concentrations of As (up to 5300 μg L−1) as well as other potentially toxic trace elements such as F, B, Mo, U, Se and V. Total As concentrations in 45 loess samples collected from the aquifer have a range of 3–18 mg kg−1 with a mean of 8 mg kg−1. These values are comparable to world-average sediment As concentrations. Five samples of rhyolitic ash from the area have As concentrations of 7–12 mg kg−1. Chemical analysis included loess sediments and extracted porewaters from two specially cored boreholes. Results reveal a large range of porewater As concentrations, being generally higher in the horizons with highest sediment As concentrations. The displaced porewaters have As concentrations ranging up to 7500 μg L−1 as well as exceptionally high concentrations of some other oxyanion species, including V up to 12 mg L−1. The highest concentrations are found in a borehole located in a topographic depression, which is a zone of likely groundwater discharge and enhanced residence time. Comparison of sediment and porewater data does not reveal unequivocally the sources of the As, but selective extract data (acid-ammonium oxalate and hydroxylamine hydrochloride) suggest that much of the As (and V) is associated with Fe oxides. Primary oxides such as magnetite and ilmenite may be partial sources but given the weathered nature of many of the sediments, secondary oxide minerals are probably more important. Extract compositions also suggest that Mn oxide may be an As source. The groundwaters of the region are oxidising, with dissolved O2, NO3 and SO4 normally present and As(V) usually the dominant dissolved As species. Under such conditions, the solubility of Fe and Mn oxides is low and As mobilisation is strongly controlled by sorption–desorption reactions. Desorption may be facilitated by the relatively high-pH conditions of the groundwaters in the region (7.0–8.8) and high concentrations of potential competitors (e.g. V, P, HCO3). PHREEQC modelling suggests that the presence of V at the concentrations observed in the Pampean porewaters can suppress the sorption of As to hydrous Fe(III) oxide (HFO) by up to an order of magnitude. Bicarbonate had a comparatively small competitive effect. Oxalate extract concentrations have been used to provide an upper estimate of the amount of labile As in the sediments. A near-linear correlation between oxalate-extractable and porewater As in one of the cored boreholes investigated has been used to estimate an approximate Kd value for the sediments of 0.94 L kg−1. This low value indicates that the sediments have an unusually low affinity for As.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes > Groundwater Management
ISSN: 0883-2927
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Groundwater and health, International development
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
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Date made live: 22 Nov 2010 15:23 +0 (UTC)

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