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Characterisation of the natural attenuation of chromium contamination in the presence of nitrate using isotopic methods. A case study from the Matanza-Riachuelo River basin, Argentina

Ceballos, Elina, Margalef-Martí, Rosanna, Carrey, Raul, Frei, Robert, Otero, Neus, Soler, Albert, Ayora, Carlos
The Science of the total environment 2020 v.699 pp. 134331
basins, case studies, chemical reduction, chromium, denitrification, groundwater, groundwater contamination, industrialization, isotope fractionation, isotopes, models, nitrates, watersheds, Argentina
The groundwater contamination by hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) in a site of the Matanza-Riachuelo River basin (MRB), Argentina, has been evaluated by determining the processes that control the natural mobility and attenuation of Cr(VI) in the presence of high nitrate (NO3−) contents. The groundwater Cr(VI) concentrations ranged between 1.9E-5 mM and 0.04 mM, while the NO3− concentrations ranged between 0.5 mM and 3.9 mM.In order to evaluate the natural attenuation of Cr(VI) and NO3− in the MRB groundwater, Cr and N isotopes were measured in these contaminants. In addition, laboratory batch experiments were performed to determine the isotope fractionation (ε) during the reduction of Cr(VI) under denitrifying conditions. While the Cr(VI) reduction rate is not affected by the presence of NO3−, the NO3− attenuation is slower in the presence of Cr(VI). Nevertheless, no significant differences on ε values were observed when testing the absence or presence of each contaminant. The ε53Cr determined in the batch experiments describe a two- stage trend, in which Stage I is characterized by ε53Cr ~−1.8‰ and Stage II by ε53Cr ~−0.9‰. The respective ε15NNO3 obtained is −23.9‰ whereas ε18ONO3 amount to −25.7‰. Using these ε values and a Rayleigh fractionation model we estimate that an average of 60% of the original Cr(VI) is removed from the groundwater of the contaminated site. Moreover, the average degree of NO3− attenuation by denitrification is found to be about 20%. This study provides valuable information about the dynamics of a complex system that can serve as a basis for efficient management of contaminated groundwater in the most populated and industrialized basin of Argentina.