Organic solute sorption by hydrous iron and aluminum oxides was studied in an acidic, metal-enriched stream (the Snake River) at its confluence with a pristine stream (Deer Creek). From 1979 to 1986, typically 40% of the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) was removed from solution by sorption onto aluminum and iron oxides, which precipitate as the two streamwaters mix. Upstream DOC concentrations, which increase during snowmelt, were identified as the most significant variables in a multiple regression for determining the DOC concentration below the confluence, and the extent of Al and Fe precipitation was much less significant. On hourly timescales, removal of Al and Fe varied erratically but DOC removal was steady, indicating that "sorbable" organic solutes are sorbed either by precipitating oxides or by oxides on the streambed. Characterization of two reactive DOC fractions (fulvic and hydrophilic acids) showed that sorption results in chemical fractionation. Molecules with greater contents of aromatic moieties, carboxylic acid groups, and amino acid residues were preferentially sorbed, which is consistent with the ligand exchange-surface complexation model.
Additional publication details
Sorption of dissolved organic carbon by hydrous aluminum and iron oxides occurring at the confluence of deer creek with the Snake River, Summit County, Colorado