Processes active within sediment of the Bengal delta have attracted world concern because of the locally high content of arsenic dissolved in ground water drawn from that sediment. Sediment samples were collected from two boreholes in Srirampur village, Kachua upazila, Chandphur district, Bangladesh, to investigate the processes contributing to arsenic contamination. The samples were mineralogically and chemically analyzed to determine compositional variations related to the arsenic content of the sediment. Mineralogy of the sediments was determined using powder X-ray diffraction. Bulk chemical composition was measured by Combustion, Inductively Coupled Plasma Atomic Emission Spectroscopy, Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence, and Hydride Generation Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry. Solutions produced by four chemical extractions-0.1 molar strontium chloride, 0.5 normal hydrochloric acid, titanium(III)-EDTA, and a solution of hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid-were analyzed to evaluate the chemical reactivity of the sediment with an emphasis on arsenic residence. Acid-volatile sulfide, acid-soluble sulfate, and reducible sulfide were also measured.
Sediment sampled at Srirampur is typically unlithified, gray, micaceous, feldspathic, arenaceous silt and sand. Arsenic content of the sediment ranges from <1 to 210 ppm, with the highest contents measured in sediment collected at a depth of 320 meters. Samples with high arsenic contents typically contain high concentrations of sulfur. The greatest amount of arsenic was extracted using the oxidative hydrogen peroxide and hydrochloric acid extraction solution. The extraction results are consistent with the apparent association of arsenic in sulfur in the bulk chemical analyses. Pyrite is typically the most abundant form of sulfur in the sediment and is dissolved by the oxidative extraction.