Advertisement

Environmental Geology

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 905–913 | Cite as

The geochemistry of selenium associated with coal waste in the Elk River Valley, Canada

  • C. Lussier
  • V. Veiga
  • S. Baldwin
Original Article

Abstract

Selenium (Se) concentrations more than 12 times greater than the provincial freshwater quality guideline (2 µg/L) were detected in the Elk River downstream from the five open-pit coal mines in southeastern British Columbia's Elk River Valley. To identify possible sources of Se to the Elk River, samples from the coal-bearing Mist Mountain Formation were studied using X-ray diffraction, elemental and oxide analyses, sequential extractions and heavy liquid separation. Between 2.5 and 21.3% of the total Se in the five types of materials studied is water-soluble and 1.0 to 10.6% is associated with hydrous ferric and manganese oxides. Se associated with sulphides and organic material varies between 60 and 84% of the total Se and Se in the silicate structure varies from 5.9 to 24.7%. The ratio of sulphides to the total of organic carbon is well-correlated with the amount of Se in materials closely associated with coal seams containing less than 6 mg/kg of Se (r=0.916). This may suggest that the amount of organic matter present during deposition affects the amount of Se incorporated into sulphides.

Keywords

Selenium Coal Mineralogy Sulphides Total organic carbon British Columbia, Canada 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Staff at the Fording River, Greenhills, Coal Mountain, Line Creek and Elkview mines are acknowledged for their assistance with sampling and providing background information. We also thank Barry Ryan, along with the British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines, for coordinating sample collection and providing information on regional geology. Funding for this study was provided by Fording Coal Ltd., Teck Corporation, Luscar Ltd. and the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council through an Industrial Postgraduate Scholarship.

References

  1. ASTM (2001) Annual book of ASTM standards. American Society for Testing and Materials, West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, vol 05, 06Google Scholar
  2. Ballistrieri LS, Chao TT (1987) Selenium adsorption by goethite. Soil Sci Soc Am J 51:1145–1151Google Scholar
  3. Bogle EW, Nichol I (1981) Metal transfer, partition and fixation in drainage waters and sediments in carbonate terrain in southeastern Ontario. J Geochem Expl 15:405–422Google Scholar
  4. Brooke LT, Call DJ, Harting SL, Lindberg CA, Markee TP, McCauley, DJ, Poirier SH (1985) Acute toxicity of selenium (IV) and selenium (VI) to freshwater organisms. Center for Lake Superior Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-SuperiorGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown, CJ, Schoonen, MAA, Candela JL (2000) Geochemical modeling of iron, sulfur, oxygen and carbon in a coastal plain aquifer. J Hydrol 237:3–4, 147–168Google Scholar
  6. Brueechert V, Pratt LM (1996) Contemporaneous early diagenetic formation of organic and inorganic sulfur in estuarine sediments from St. Andrew Bay, Florida, USA. Geochem Cosmichim Acta 60(13):2325–2332CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Casagrande D, Siefert K, Berschinski C, Sutton N (1977) Sulfur in peat-forming systems of the Okefenokee Swamp and Florida Everglades: origins of sulfur in coal. Geochem Cosmichim Acta 41:161–167Google Scholar
  8. Chao TT, Sanzolone RF (1989) Fractionation of soil selenium by sequential partial dissolution. Soil Sci Am J 31:21–26Google Scholar
  9. Chou CL (1990) Formation of pyrite and organic sulfur compounds in coal: a review. Geol Soc Am 22(7):202Google Scholar
  10. Coleman L, Bragg LJ, Finkelman RB(1993) Distribution and mode of occurrence of selenium in US coals. Environ Geochem Health 15(4):215–226Google Scholar
  11. Davidson R, Clarke L (1996) Trace elements in coal. IEA Coal Research Perspectives, 60 ppGoogle Scholar
  12. Dreher GB, Finkelman RB (1992) Selenium mobilization in a surface coal mine, Powder River Basin, Wyoming, U.S.A. Environ Geol Water Sci 19(3):155–167Google Scholar
  13. Frost RR, Griffin RA (1977) Effect of pH on adsorption of arsenic and selenium from landfill leachate by clay minerals. Soil Sci Soc Am J 41:53–57Google Scholar
  14. Galbreath KC, Brekke DW (1994) Feasibility of combined wave-length/energy-dispersive computer-controlled scanning electron microscopy for determining trace metal distribution. Fuel Process Tech 39(1–3):63–72Google Scholar
  15. Geering HR, Cary EE, Jones LHP, Allaway WH (1968) Solubility and redox criteria for the possible forms of selenium in soils. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 32:35–40Google Scholar
  16. Gibson DW (1979) The Morrissey and Mist Mountain Formations: newly defined lithostratigraphic units of the Jura-Cretaceous Kootenay Group, Alberta and British Columbia. Bull Can Petrogr Geol 27(2):183–208Google Scholar
  17. Gibson DW, Hughes JD (1981) Structure, stratigraphy, sedimentary environments and coal deposits of the Jura-Cretaceous Kootenay-Group, Crowsnest Pass area, Alberta and British Columbia: field guides to geology and mineral deposits. Geological Association of Canada Annual Meeting, Calgary, 39 ppGoogle Scholar
  18. Given PH, Miller RN (1985) Distribution of forms of sulfur in peats from saline environments in the Florida Everglades. Int J Coal Geol 5(4): 397–409Google Scholar
  19. Goodarzi F, Swaine DJ (1993) Chacophile elements in western Canadian coals. Int J Coal Geol 24(1–4):281–292Google Scholar
  20. Hamilton SJ, Buhl KJ (1990) Acute toxicity of boron, molybdenum, and selenium to fry of Chinook salmon and coho salmon. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 19:366–375PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Hickmott DD, Baldridge WS (1995) Application of PIXE micro-analysis to macerals and sulfides from the Lower Kittaning coal of western Pennsylvania. Econ Geol 90(2):246–254Google Scholar
  22. Jones SR, Garbarino JR (1999) Methods of analysis by the US Geological Survey National Water Quality Laboratory: determination of arsenic and selenium in water and sediment by graphite furnace-atomic absorption spectrometry. US Geological Survey Report, pp 98–639Google Scholar
  23. McDonald LE, Strosher MS (1998) Selenium mobilization from surface coal mining in the Elk River Basin, British Columbia: a survey of water, sediment and biota. British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Pollution Prevention Branch, Cranbrook, British ColumbiaGoogle Scholar
  24. Mc Neal MJ, Balistrieri LS, (1989) Geochemistry and occurrence of selenium: an overview. In: Jacobs LW (ed) Selenium in agriculture and the environment. Soil Science Society of America, Special Publication, Madison, Wisconsin, no 23, pp 1–13.Google Scholar
  25. Minkin JA, Finkelman RB, Thompson CL, Chao ECT, Ruppert LF, Blank H, Cecil CB (1984) Microcharacterization of arsenic- and selenium bearing pyrite in Upper Freeport coal, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Scanning Electron Microscopy, SEM Inc, AMF O'Hare, Chicago, pp 1515–1524Google Scholar
  26. Nagpal NK, Pommen LW, Swain LG (1998) British Columbia approved water quality guidelines. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Water Protection Branch. Victoria, British ColumbiaGoogle Scholar
  27. Price FT, Shieh YT (1979) The distribution and isotopic composition of sulfur in coals from the Illinois Basin. Econ Geol 74:1445–1461Google Scholar
  28. Ryan B, Dittrick M (2000) Selenium in the Mist Mountain Formation of southeast British Columbia. British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines, Geological Fieldwork 2000, Paper 2001-1Google Scholar
  29. Schafer HNS (1984) Determination of carboxyl groups in low-rank coals. Fuel 63:723–726Google Scholar
  30. Sobek AA, Schuller WA, Freeman JR, Smith RM (1978) Field and laboratory methods applicable to overburden and mine soils. EPA-600/2-78-054, National Technical Information Service. Springfield, VirginiaGoogle Scholar
  31. Spears A, Martinez Tarazona M, Lee S (1994) Pyrite in UK coals: environmental significance. Fuel 73:7Google Scholar
  32. Spears DA, Zheng Y (1999) Geochemistry and origin of elements in some UK coals. Int J Coal Geol 38:161–179Google Scholar
  33. U.S. National Committee for Geochemistry (1980) Trace element geochemistry of coal resource development related to environmental quality and health. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 132 ppGoogle Scholar
  34. Vessey SJ, Bustin RM (2000) Sedimentology of the coal-bearing Mist Mountain Formation, Line Creek, Southern Canadian Cordillera: relation to coal quality. Int J Coal Geol 42:129–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wandless AM (1959) The occurrence of sulphur in British Coals. J Inst Fuel 32:258–266Google Scholar
  36. White RN, Smith JV, Spears DA, Rivers ML, Sutton SR (1989) Analysis of iron sulphides from UK coal by synchrotron radiation X-ray fluorescence. Fuel 68:1480Google Scholar
  37. Zehr JP, Oremland RS (1987) Reduction of selenate to selenide by sulfate-respiring bacteria: experiments with cell suspensions and estuarine sediments. Appl Environ Microbiol 53:1365–1369Google Scholar
  38. Zodrow EL, Goodarzi F (1993) Environmental implications associated with pyrite concentrates from coal in the Sydney coalfield (Upper Carboniferous), Nova Scotia, Canada, Energy Sourc 15(4): 639–652Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mining EngineeringUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Biological EngineeringUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations