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Effect of Dissolved CO2 on a Shallow Groundwater System: A Controlled Release Field Experiment

Trautz, Robert C., Pugh, John D., Varadharajan, Charuleka, Zheng, Liange, Bianchi, Marco, Nico, Peter S., Spycher, Nicolas F., Newell, Dennis L., Esposito, Richard A., Wu, Yuxin, Dafflon, Baptiste, Hubbard, Susan S., Birkholzer, Jens T.
Environmental Science & Technology 2013 v.47 no.1 pp. 298-305
United States Environmental Protection Agency, arsenic, barium, calcium, carbon dioxide, chromium, desorption, dissolved carbon dioxide, field experimentation, greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, maximum contaminant level, pH, strontium, United States
Capturing carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from industrial sources and injecting the emissions deep underground in geologic formations is one method being considered to control CO₂ concentrations in the atmosphere. Sequestering CO₂ underground has its own set of environmental risks, including the potential migration of CO₂ out of the storage reservoir and resulting acidification and release of trace constituents in shallow groundwater. A field study involving the controlled release of groundwater containing dissolved CO₂ was initiated to investigate potential groundwater impacts. Dissolution of CO₂ in the groundwater resulted in a sustained and easily detected decrease of ∼3 pH units. Several trace constituents, including As and Pb, remained below their respective detections limits and/or at background levels. Other constituents (Ba, Ca, Cr, Sr, Mg, Mn, and Fe) displayed a pulse response, consisting of an initial increase in concentration followed by either a return to background levels or slightly greater than background. This suggests a fast-release mechanism (desorption, exchange, and/or fast dissolution of small finite amounts of metals) concomitant in some cases with a slower release potentially involving different solid phases or mechanisms. Inorganic constituents regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency remained below their respective maximum contaminant levels throughout the experiment.