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Quantifying arsenate partitioning in aquatic systems: Narrowing the laboratory-real world gap with kinetic sediment extractions and the Diffuse Layer Model

Christenson, Hannah K., Swedlund, Peter J.
Applied geochemistry 2015 v.58 pp. 38-45
geochemistry, iron oxides, phosphorus, sediments, suspended sediment, iron, EDTA (chelating agent), phosphates, ferrihydrite, geographical distribution, sorption, arsenic, models, arsenates, hydrochemistry, oxalates, rivers, silicon, ligands, river water, silicic acid, New Zealand
Many studies have proposed that silicic acid and phosphate (PV) can displace arsenic sorbed to iron oxides leading to elevated As concentrations in aquatic systems. While surface complexation models are adept at quantifying sorption to synthetic oxides in laboratory systems their application to complex natural systems remains challenging. In this study we provide a systematic approach to developing a robust use of models for understanding AsV distribution in natural systems in which hydrated iron oxides are the main adsorptive phase. The Waikato River provides a useful laboratory for this work because it contains high H4SiO4, AsV and PV loadings due to geothermal and agricultural inputs. A 15min oxalate extraction and a 48h ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) extraction of river sediment contained the same ratios of As:Fe, P:Fe and Si:Fe. Both of these extracts target the poorly ordered iron oxide phases (typically ferrihydrite) and by following the release of elements over time in the EDTA extraction it was possible to demonstrate that the extracted As, P, and Si were associated with the ferrihydrite. This demonstrates for the first time that a single oxalate extraction can quantify ferrihydrite sorbed H4SiO4, As and PV and provides a basis to quantify the role of these ligands in inhibiting AsV sorption to sediments. The measured concentrations of ferrihydrite sorbed AsV, PV and H4SiO4 for the Waikato River suspended sediment allow for the informed selection of appropriate model parameters for applying the Diffuse Layer Model to the system. In this way it was possible to quantify the effect of the individual components in the river water on AsV sorption. This study provides an explanation for the observation that the proportion of sorbed As in the Waikato River is generally significantly lower than that observed in rivers closer to the world average concentrations. More generally the study provides a method to quantify the role of individual water chemistry components on AsV distribution in natural systems.