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Title: Source and distribution of naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater from Alberta’s Southern Oil Sands Regions

Arsenic (As) concentrations as high as 179 μg/L have been observed in shallow groundwater in the Alberta’s Southern Oil Sand Regions. The geology of this area of Alberta includes a thick cover (up to 200 m) of unconsolidated glacial deposits, with a number of regional interglacial sand and gravel aquifers, underlain by marine shale. Arsenic concentrations observed in 216 unconsolidated sediment samples ranged from 1 and 17 ppm. A survey of over 800 water wells sampled for As in the area found that 50% of the wells contained As concentrations exceeding drinking water guidelines of 10 μg/L. Higher As concentrations in groundwater were associated with reducing conditions. Measurements of As speciation from 175 groundwater samples indicate that As(III) was the dominant species in 74% of the wells. Speciation model calculations showed that the majority of groundwater samples were undersaturated with respect to ferrihydrite, suggesting that reductive dissolution of Fe-oxyhydroxides may be the source of some As in groundwater. Detailed mineralogical characterization of sediment samples collected from two formations revealed the presence of fresh framboidal pyrite in the deeper unoxidized sediments. Electron microprobe analysis employing wavelength dispersive spectrometry indicated that the framboidal pyrite had variable As content with an average Asmore » concentration of 530 ppm, reaching up to 1840 ppm. In contrast, the oxidized sediments did not contain framboidal pyrite, but exhibited spheroidal Fe-oxyhydroxide grains with elevated As concentrations. The habit and composition suggest that these Fe-oxyhydroxide grains in the oxidized sediment were an alteration product of former framboidal pyrite grains. X-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy (XANES) indicated that the oxidized sediments are dominated by As(V) species having spectral features similar to those of goethite or ferrihydrite with adsorbed As, suggesting that Fe-oxyhydroxides are the dominant As carriers. XANES spectra collected on unoxidized sediment samples, in contrast, indicated the presence of a reduced As species (As(-I)) characteristic of arsenopyrite and arsenian pyrite. The results of the mineralogical analyses indicate that the oxidation of framboidal pyrite during weathering may be the source of As released to shallow aquifers in this region.« less
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Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Applied Geochemistry; Journal Volume: 62; Journal Issue: C
Research Org:
Advanced Photon Source (APS), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Argonne, IL (US)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States