Conventional arsenic remediation strategies primarily involve above-ground treatment that include costs involved in the disposal of sludge material. The primary advantages of in-situ remediation are that building and maintaining a large treatment facility are not necessary and that costs associated with the disposal of sludge are eliminated. A two-phase study was implemented to address the feasibility of in-situ arsenic remediation in Douglas County, Nevada.
Arsenic concentrations in groundwater within Douglas County range from 1 to 85 micrograms per liter. The primary arsenic species in groundwater at greater than 250 ft from land surface is arsenite; however, in the upper 150 ft of the aquifer arsenate predominates. Where arsenite is the primary form of arsenic, the oxidation of arsenite to arsenate is necessary. The results of the first phase of this investigation indicated that arsenic concentrations can be remediated to below the drinking-water standard using aeration, chlorination, iron, and pH adjustment. Arsenic concentrations were remediated to less than 10 micrograms per liter in groundwater from the shallow and deep aquifer when iron concentrations of 3-6 milligrams per liter and pH adjustments to less than 6 were used. Because of the rapid depletion of dissolved oxygen, the secondary drinking-water standards for iron (300 micrograms per liter) and manganese (100 micrograms per liter) were exceeded during treatment. Treatment was more effective in the shallow well as indicated by a greater recovery of water meeting the arsenic standard.
Laboratory and field tests were included in the second phase of this study. Laboratory column experiments using aquifer material indicated the treatment process followed during the first phase of this study will continue to work, without exceeding secondary drinking-water standards, provided that groundwater was pre-aerated and an adequate number of pore volumes treated. During the 147-day laboratory experiment, no decrease in flow through the column was observed. The primary mechanism of arsenic removal is through coprecipitation with iron oxide.
Calculations based on the results of the column experiments and assuming 10 and 30 percent porosity indicated that treatment of approximately 237,000-714,000 gallons of water would be required in order to remediate arsenic concentrations to less than 10 micrograms per liter. During the first second-phase field experiment, effective injection of treated groundwater back into the aquifer was prevented due to clogging likely caused by entrained gases and the fine texture (sand, clay, and gravel) of the aquifer sediments. Because of the overflow of treated water from the injection wells, only 3,760 gallons of treated water were injected. Immediately upon terminating this first experiment, no arsenic remediation was apparent. However, approximately 24 hours after terminating the experiment arsenic concentrations in groundwater collected from one of the injection wells showed a decrease from about 30 to 15 micrograms per liter, indicating that some remediation had taken place. In agreement with the laboratory-column experiments, pre-aeration prevented the exceedence of the secondary drinking-water standards for iron and manganese. Because of complications associated with system hydraulics, no additional experiments were performed.