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Arsenic Species Formed from Arsenopyrite Weathering along a Contamination Gradient in Circumneutral River Floodplain Soils

Mandaliev Petar N., Mikutta Christian, Barmettler Kurt, Kotsev Tsvetan, Kretzschmar Ruben
Environmental Science & Technology 2014 v.48 no.1 pp. 208-217
X-radiation, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, alluvial soils, anaerobic conditions, arsenic, bioavailability, breathing, ferric oxide, ferrihydrite, floodplains, fluorescence, geometry, humans, ingestion, iron, mining, pH, particle size, rivers, soil sampling, toxicity, wastes, weathering, wetlands, Bulgaria
Arsenic is a toxic trace element, which commonly occurs as contaminant in riverine floodplains and associated wetlands affected by mining and ore processing. In this study, we investigated the solid-phase speciation of As in river floodplain soils characterized by circumneutral pH (5.7–7.1) and As concentrations of up to 40.3 g/kg caused by former mining of arsenopyrite-rich ores. Soil samples collected in the floodplain of Ogosta River (Bulgaria) were size-fractionated and subsequently analyzed using a combination of X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry, powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), and selective chemical extraction of poorly crystalline mineral phases. Arsenic and Fe were found to be spatially correlated and both elements were strongly enriched in the fine soil particle size fractions (<2 μm and 2–50 μm). Between 14 and 82% of the total As was citrate-ascorbate extractable. Molar As/Fe ratios were as high as 0.34 in the bulk soil extracts and increased up to 0.48 in extracts of the fine particle size fractions. Arsenic K-edge XAS spectra showed the predominance of As(V) and were well fitted with a reference spectrum of As(V) adsorbed to ferrihydrite. Whereas no As(III) was detected, considerable amounts of As(-I) were present and identified as arsenopyrite originating from the mining waste. Iron K-edge XAS revealed that in addition to As(V) adsorbed to ferrihydrite, X-ray amorphous As(V)-rich hydrous ferric oxides (“As-HFO”) with a reduced number of corner-sharing FeO₆ octahedra relative to ferrihydrite were the dominating secondary As species in the soils. The extremely high concentrations of As in the fine particle size fractions (up to 214 g/kg) and its association with poorly crystalline Fe(III) oxyhydroxides and As-HFO phases suggest a high As mobilization potential under both oxic and anoxic conditions, as well as a high bioaccessibility of As upon ingestion, dermal contact, or inhalation by humans or animals.