Arsenic transport in groundwater, surface water, and the hyporheic zone of a mine-influenced stream-aquifer system


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Virginia Tech


We investigated the transport of dissolved arsenic in groundwater, surface water and the hyporheic zone in a stream-aquifer system influenced by an abandoned arsenopyrite mine. Mine tailing piles consisting of a host of arsenic-bearing minerals including arsenopyrite and scorodite remain adjacent to the stream and represent a continuous source of arsenic. Arsenic loads from the stream, springs, and groundwater were quantified at the study reach on nine dates from January to August 2005 and a mass-balance approach was used to determine hyporheic retention. Arsenic loading from the groundwater was the dominate source of arsenic to the stream, while loads from springs represented a substantial proportion of the total arsenic load during spring. Arsenic loads in surface and groundwater were significantly elevated during summer. Elevated temperatures during summer may lead to increased arsenic loading by increasing dissolution rate of arsenic source minerals and/or increases in microbially-mediated dissolution processes. The hyporheic zone was shown to be retaining arsenic in the upstream-most sub-reach. Retention most likely occurs through the sorption of dissolved arsenic onto hyporheic sediments. In downstream sub-reaches, hyporheic sediments are derived from mine-tailing piles which have high arsenic content. The hyporheic zone in these sub-reaches was shown to be releasing dissolved arsenic. The historic influence of mining activity has resulted in multiple sources of arsenic to the stream which has increased arsenic contamination of the surface waters.



arsenic, hyporheic zone, trace-metal transport, arsenic mining