Geochemical processes and the effects of natural organic solutes on the solubility of selenium in coal-mine backfill aquifers were investigated. Backfill and ground-water samples were collected at coal mines in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming. Backfill was generally dominated by aluminum (14,400 to 49,000 mg/kg (milligrams per kilogram)), iron (3,330 to 23,200 mg/kg), and potassium (7,950 to 18,000 mg/kg). Backfill saturated-paste selenium concentrations ranged from 1 to 156 mg/kg (microsiemens per kilogram). Ground-water total selenium concentrations ranged from 3 to 125 mg/L. Dissolved organic carbon in all ground-water samples was dominated by hydrophobic and hydrophilic acids (38 to 84 percent). Selenite sorption/desorption experiments were conducted using background solutions of distilled-deionized water, 0.1 molar calcium chloride, and isolated hydrophobic and hydrophilic acids. Selenite sorption was larger when 0.1 molar calcium chloride was used. The addition of hydrophilic acid decreased selenite sorption more than the addition of hydrophobic acids. Geochemical modelling was used to predict the solid phases controlling dissolved selenium concentrations and to evaluate the effects of dissolved organic carbon on selenium solubility. Results suggested that 55 to 90 percent of selenium in backfill precipitation/dissolution extracts was dominated by magnesium selenate ion pairs. Dissolved organic carbon had little effect on selenium speciation. A redox chamber was constructed to control Eh and pH in water and backfill-core sample suspensions. The response of selenite and selenate in water samples to redox conditions did not follow thermodynamic predictions. Reduction of selenate in water samples did not occur at any of the redox levels tested.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geochemical processes and the effects of natural organic solutes on the solubility of selenium in coal-mine backfill samples from the Powder River basin, Wyoming
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey ;
USGS Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],