Geochemical interactions between constituents in acidic groundwater and alluvium in an aquifer near Globe, Arizona

Applied Geochemistry



Acidic water from a copper-mining area has contaminated an alluvial aquifer and stream near Globe, Arizona. The most contaminated groundwater has a pH of 3.3, and contains about 100 mmol/1 SO4, 50 mmol/1 Fe, 11 mmol/1 Al and 3 mmol/1 Cu. Reactions between alluvium and acidic groundwater were first evaluated in laboratory column experiments. A geochemical model was developed and used in the equilibrium speciation program, MINTEQA2, to simulate breakthrough curves for different constituents from the column. The geochemical model was then used to simulate the measured changes in concentration of aqueous constituents along a flow path in the aquifer.

The pH was predominantly controlled by reaction with carbonate minerals. Where carbonates had been dissolved, adsorption of H+ by iron oxides was used to simulate pH. Acidic groundwater contained little or no dissolved oxygen, and most aqueous Fe was present as Fe(II). In the anoxic core of the plume, Fe(II) was oxidized by MnO2 to Fe(III), which then precipitated as Fe(OH)3. Attenuation of aqueous Cu, Co, Mn, Ni and Zn was a function of pH and could be quantitatively modeled with the diffuse-layer, surface complexation model in MINTEQA2. Aluminum precipitated as amorphous Al(OH)3 at pH < 4.7 and as AlOHSO4 at pH < 4.7. Aqueous Ca and SO4were close to equilibrium with gypsum.

After the alluvium in the column had reached equilibrium with acidic groundwater, uncontaminated groundwater was eluted through the column to evaluate the effect of reactants on groundwater remediation. The concentration of Fe, Mn, Cu, Co, Ni and Zn rapidly decreased to the detection limits within a few pore volumes. All of the gypsum that had precipitated initially redissolved, resulting in elevated Ca and SO4concentrations for about 5 pore volumes. Aluminum and pH exhibited the most potential for continued adverse effects on groundwater quality. As H+ desorbed from Fe(OH)3, pH remained below 4.5 for more than 20 pore volumes, resulting in dissolution of AlOHSO4 and elevated aqueous Al.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Geochemical interactions between constituents in acidic groundwater and alluvium in an aquifer near Globe, Arizona
Series title Applied Geochemistry
DOI 10.1016/0883-2927(94)90058-2
Volume 9
Issue 4
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 17 p.
First page 353
Last page 369