To understand the hydrogeochemical processes regulating well water arsenic (As) evolution in fractured bedrock aquifers, three domestic wells with [As] up to 478?g/L are investigated in central Maine. Geophysical logging reveals that fractures near the borehole bottom contribute 70-100% of flow. Borehole and fracture water samples from various depths show significant proportions of As (up to 69%) and Fe (93-99%) in particulates (>0.45?m). These particulates and those settled after a 16-day batch experiment contain 560-13,000mg/kg of As and 14-35% weight/weight of Fe. As/Fe ratios (2.5-20mmol/mol) and As partitioning ratios (adsorbed/dissolved [As], 20,000-100,000L/kg) suggest that As is sorbed onto amorphous hydrous ferric oxides. Newly drilled cores also show enrichment of As (up to 1300mg/kg) sorbed onto secondary iron minerals on the fracture surfaces. Pumping at high flow rates induces large decreases in particulate As and Fe, a moderate increase in dissolved [As] and As(III)/As ratio, while little change in major ion chemistry. The ?D and ?(18)O are similar for the borehole and fracture waters, suggesting a same source of recharge from atmospheric precipitation. Results support a conceptual model invoking flow and sorption controls on groundwater [As] in fractured bedrock aquifers whereby oxygen infiltration promotes the oxidation of As-bearing sulfides at shallower depths in the oxic portion of the flow path releasing As and Fe; followed by Fe oxidation to form Fe oxyhydroxide particulates, which are transported in fractures and sorb As along the flow path until intercepted by boreholes. In the anoxic portions of the flow path, reductive dissolution of As-sorbed iron particulates could re-mobilize As. For exposure assessment, we recommend sampling of groundwater without filtration to obtain total As concentration in groundwater.
Chronic exposure to arsenic (As) by drinking shallow groundwater causes widespread disease in Bangladesh and neighboring countries. The release of As naturally present in sediment to groundwater has been linked to the reductive dissolution of iron oxides coupled to the microbial respiration of organic carbon (OC). The source of OC driving this microbial reduction--carbon deposited with the sediments or exogenous carbon transported by groundwater--is still debated despite its importance in regulating aquifer redox status and groundwater As levels. Here, we used the radiocarbon ((14)C) signature of microbial DNA isolated from groundwater samples to determine the relative importance of surface and sediment-derived OC. Three DNA samples collected from the shallow, high-As aquifer and one sample from the underlying, low-As aquifer were consistently younger than the total sediment carbon, by as much as several thousand years. This difference and the dominance of heterotrophic microorganisms implies that younger, surface-derived OC is advected within the aquifer, albeit more slowly than groundwater, and represents a critical pool of OC for aquifer microbial communities. The vertical profile shows that downward transport of dissolved OC is occurring on anthropogenic timescales, but bomb (14)C-labeled dissolved OC has not yet accumulated in DNA and is not fueling reduction. These results indicate that advected OC controls aquifer redox status and confirm that As release is a natural process that predates human perturbations to groundwater flow. Anthropogenic perturbations, however, could affect groundwater redox conditions and As levels in the future.
Arsenic is a prevalent contaminant at US Superfund sites where remediation by pump and treat systems is often complicated by slow desorption of As from Fe and Al (hydr)oxides in aquifer solids. Chemical amendments that either compete with As for sorption sites or dissolve Fe and Al (hydr)oxides can increase As mobility and improve pump and treat remediation efficiency. The goal of this work was to determine optimal amendments for improving pump and treat at As contaminated sites such as the Vineland Chemical Co. Superfund site in southern New Jersey. Extraction and column experiments were performed using As contaminated aquifer solids (81 ± 1 mg/kg), site groundwater, and either phosphate (NaH(2)PO(4)·H(2)O) or oxalic acid (C(2)H(2)O(4)·2H(2)O). In extraction experiments, phosphate mobilized between 11% and 94% of As from the aquifer solids depending on phosphate concentration and extraction time (1 mM-1 M; 1-24 h) and oxalic acid mobilized between 38 and 102% depending on oxalic acid concentration and extraction time (1-400 mM; 1-24 h). In column experiments, phosphate additions induced more As mobilization in the first few pore volumes but oxalic acid was more effective at mobilizing As overall and at lower amendment concentrations. At the end of the laboratory column experiments, 48% of As had been mobilized from the aquifer sediments with 100 mM phosphate and 88% had been mobilized with 10 mM oxalic acid compared with 5% with ambient groundwater alone. Furthermore, simple extrapolations based on pore volumes suggest that chemical treatments could lower the time necessary for clean up at the Vineland site from 600 a with ambient groundwater alone to potentially as little as 4 a with 10 mM oxalic acid.
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