Water-sediment interactions were investigated in arsenic contaminated Holocene aquifers of the Red River floodplain, Vietnam, in order to elucidate the origin of the spatial variability in the groundwater arsenic concentration. The investigated aquifers are spread over an 8 × 13 km field area with sediments that varied in burial age from <1 kyr to 11 kyr. The groundwater age ranged from less than 2 yr, up to a maximum near 90 yr. Groundwater As concentrations are between 0 and 6.5 µM and there are no simple correlations between the As concentration and groundwater age or aquifer sediment burial age. The aquifers are anoxic with up to 2 mM CH 4 and up to 0.5 mM DOC. The downward advective DOC flux is too small to support both methanogenesis and the reduction of As-containing Fe-oxides and sedimentary carbon is therefore considered the main carbon source for the redox processes. The groundwater H 2 concentration ranged between 0.1 and 4 nM. These values are intermediate between ranges characteristic for Fe-oxide reduction and methanogenesis and suggest that both processes take place simultaneously. The groundwater pe was calculated from the H 2/H + and CH 4/CO 2 redox couples, giving almost similar results that apparently reflects the pe of the bulk groundwater. The pe calculated for the As(III)/As(V) redox couple was found in disequilibrium with the other redox couples. Using the pe calculated from the CH 4/CO 2 redox couple we show that the groundwater has a reducing potential towards Fe-oxides ranging from ferrihydrite to poorly crystalline goethite, but not for well crystalline goethite or hematite. Hematite and poorly crystalline goethite were identified as the Fe-oxides present in the sediments. Reductive dissolution experiments identify two phases releasing Fe(II); one rapidly dissolving that also contains As and a second releasing Fe(II) more slowly but without As. The initial release of Fe and As occurs at a near constant As/Fe ratio that varied from site to site between 1.2 and 0.1 mmol As/mol Fe. Siderite (FeCO 3) is the main sink for Fe(II), based on saturation calculations as well as the identification of siderite in the sediment. Most of the carbonate incorporated in siderite originates from the dissolution of sedimentary CaCO 3. Over time the CaCO 3 content of the sediments diminishes and FeCO 3 appears instead. No specific secondary phases that incorporate arsenite could be identified. Alternatively, the amount of arsenic mobilized during the dissolution of reactive phases can be contained in the pool of adsorbed arsenite. Combining groundwater age with aquifer sediment age allows the calculation of the total number of pore volumes flushed through the aquifer. Comparison with groundwater chemistry shows the highest arsenic concentration to be present within the first 200 pore volumes flushed through the aquifer. These results agree with reactive transport modeling combining a kinetic description of reductive dissolution of As-containing Fe-oxide with adsorption and desorption of arsenite. Understanding variability in groundwater arsenic concentration requires appreciating the coupling of the chemical processes to both sedimentary and hydrogeological cycling.
- Programområde 2: Vandressourcer