Chromium(VI) concentrations in excess of the California Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 50 ??g/L occur naturally in alkaline, oxic ground-water in alluvial aquifers in the western Mojave Desert, southern California. The highest concentrations were measured in aquifers eroded from mafic rock, but Cr(VI) as high as 27 ??g/L was measured in aquifers eroded from granitic rock. Chromium(VI) concentrations did not exceed 5 ??g/L at pH < 7.5 regardless of geology. ??53Cr values in native ground-water ranged from 0.7 to 5.1??? and values were fractionated relative to the average ??53Cr composition of 0??? in the earth's crust. Positive ??53Cr values of 1.2 and 2.3??? were measured in ground-water recharge areas having low Cr concentrations, consistent with the addition of Cr(VI) that was fractionated on mineral surfaces prior to entering solution. ??53Cr values, although variable, did not consistently increase or decrease with increasing Cr concentrations as ground-water flowed down gradient through more oxic portions of the aquifer. However, increasing ??53Cr values were observed as dissolved O2 concentrations decreased, and Cr(VI) was reduced to Cr(III), and subsequently removed from solution. As a result, the highest ??53Cr values were measured in water from deep wells, and wells in discharge areas near dry lakes at the downgradient end of long flow paths through alluvial aquifers. ??53Cr values at an industrial site overlying mafic alluvium having high natural background Cr(VI) concentrations ranged from -0.1 to 3.2???. Near zero ??53Cr values at the site were the result of anthropogenic Cr. However, mixing with native ground-water and fractionation of Cr within the plume increased ??53Cr values at the site. Although ??53Cr was not necessarily diagnostic of anthropogenic Cr, it was possible to identify the extent of anthropogenic Cr at the site on the basis of the ??53Cr values in conjunction with major-ion data, and the ??18O and ??D composition of water from wells.
Additional publication details
Chromium, chromium isotopes and selected trace elements, western Mojave Desert, USA