A pH perturbation experiment was conducted in an acidic, metal-enriched, mountain stream to identify relative rates of chemical and hydrologic processes as they influence iron transport. During the experiment the pH was lowered from 4.2 to 3.2 for three hours by injection of sulfuric acid. Amorphous iron oxides are abundant on the streambed, and dissolution and photoreduction reactions resulted in a rapid increase in the dissolved iron concentration. The increase occurred simultaneously with the decrease in pH. Ferrous iron was the major aqueous iron species. The changes in the iron concentration during the experiment indicate that variation exists in the solubility properties of the hydrous iron oxides on the streambed with dissolution of at least two compartments of hydrous iron oxides contributing to the iron pulse. Spatial variations of the hydrologic properties along the stream were quantified by simulating the transport of a coinjected tracer, lithium. A simulation of iron transport, as a conservative solute, indicated that hydrologie transport had a significant role in determining downstream changes in the iron pulse. The rapidity of the changes in iron concentration indicates that a model based on dynamic equilibrium may be adequate for simulating iron transport in acid streams. A major challenge for predictive solute transport models of geochemical processes may be due to substantial spatial and seasonal variations in chemical properties of the reactive hydrous oxides in such streams, and in the physical and hydrologic properties of the stream. ?? 1989.
Additional publication details
Reactive iron transport in an acidic mountain stream in Summit County, Colorado: A hydrologic perspective