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J Contam Hydrol. 2005 Jun;78(1-2):1-25. Epub 2005 Apr 13.

Effects of a reactive barrier and aquifer geology on metal distribution and mobility in a mine drainage impacted aquifer.

Author information

1
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1.

Abstract

The Nickel Rim aquifer has been impacted for five decades by a metal-rich plume generated from the Nickel Rim mine tailings impoundment. Metals released by the oxidation of pyrrhotite in the unsaturated zone of the tailings migrate into the downgradient aquifer, affecting both the groundwater and the aquifer solids. A reactive barrier has been installed in the aquifer to remove sulfate and metals from the groundwater. The effect of the reactive barrier on metal concentrations in the aquifer solids has not previously been studied. In this study, a series of selective extraction procedures was applied to cores of aquifer sediment, to ascertain the distribution of metals among various solid phases present in the aquifer. Extraction results were combined with groundwater chemistry, geochemical modelling and solid-phase microanalyses, to assess the potential mobility of metals under changing geochemical conditions. Reactions within the reactive barrier caused an increase in the solid-phase carbonate content downgradient from the barrier. The concentrations of poorly crystalline, oxidized phases of Mn and Fe, as well as concentrations of Cr(III) associated with oxidized Fe, and poorly crystalline Zn, are lower downgradient from the barrier, whereas total solid-phase metal concentrations remain constant. Iron and Mn accumulate as oxidized, easily extractable forms in a peat layer overlying the aquifer. Although these oxides may buffer reducing plumes, they also have the potential to release metals to the groundwater, should a reduced condition be imposed on the aquifer by remedial actions.

PMID:
15949605
DOI:
10.1016/j.jconhyd.2005.02.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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