Geochemistry of the Hyperalkaline Gorka Pit Lake (pH > 13) in the Chrzanow Region, Southern Poland
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The Gorka pit lake was formed in an inactive Jurassic limestone quarry after cessation of open-pit dewatering. The main problem of the water quality in this area is linked to a large volume of extremely alkaline leachate disposed in the flooded quarry. The lake is meromictic due to a large density contrast between shallow and deep water layers. Water in the lake is of the Na–CO3–OH type, pH is in the range from 11.5 to 13.3, and there are high concentrations of sulfate and several toxic elements (Al, As, Cr, Mo, P, and V). The chemical composition of the extremely alkaline leachate was formed as a result of the groundwater interaction with the industrial red mud wastes containing 5–10 wt.% of sodium carbonate. There is a trend of increasing concentrations and pH values with depth, mainly due to the in-gassing of atmospheric CO2 into the surface layer and due to density stratification in the water column. Similar stratification is observed in groundwater wells around the lake. High dissolved concentrations of oxyanionic contaminants such as As, Cr, and V are caused by their high mobility and desorption under extremely alkaline conditions. In spite of reducing conditions at the bottom of the lake, caused by high concentrations of dumped organic matter, sulfate behaves conservatively because sulfate reducing bacteria do not survive in this pH range.
KeywordsHyperalkaline lake Pit lake Red mud wastes Toxic elements Sulfate reduction
This work was supported by research program no. 18.104.22.168 of the Faculty of Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Protection, Department of Hydrogeology and Engineering Geology, AGH-University of Science and Technology, Krakow. We thank an anonymous reviewer for useful suggestions and editorial changes, which improved the manuscript.
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