Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 11, Issue 3–4, pp 171–185 | Cite as

Arsenic in ground-water under oxidizing conditions, south-west United States

  • Frederick N. Robertson


Concentrations of dissolved arsenic in ground-water in alluvial basins of Arizona commonly exceed 50 μg L−1 and reach values as large as 1,300 μg L−1. Arsenic speciation analyses show that arsenic occurs in the fully oxidized state of plus 5 (As+5), most likely in the form of HAsO4∼2, under existing oxidizing and pH conditions. Arsenic in source areas presumably is oxidized to soluble As before transport into the basin or, if after transport, before burial. Probable sources of arsenic are the sulphide and arsenide deposits in the mineralized areas of the mountains surrounding the basins. Arsenic content of alluvial material ranged from 2 to 88 ppm. Occurrence and removal of arsenic in ground-water are related to the pH and the redox condition of the ground-water, the oxidation state of arsenic, and sorption or exchange. Within basins, dissolved arsenic correlates (P<0.01) with dissolved molybdenum, selenium, vanadium, and fluoride and with pH, suggesting sorption of negative ions. The sorption hypothesis is further supported by enrichment of teachable arsenic in the basin-fill sediments by about tenfold relative to the crustal abundance and by as much as a thousandfold relative to concentrations found in ground-water. Silicate hydrolysis reactions, as defined within the alluvial basins, under closed conditions cause increases in pH basinward and would promote desorption. Within the region, large concentrations of arsenic are commonly associated with the central parts of basins whose chemistries evolve under closed conditions. Arsenic does not correlate with dissolved iron (r = 0.09) but may be partly controlled by iron in the solid phase. High solid-phase arsenic contents were found in red clay beds. Large concentrations of arsenic also were found in water associated with red clay beds. Basins that contain the larger concentrations are bounded primarily by basalt and andesite, suggesting that the iron content as well as the arsenic content of the basin fill may play a role in the occurrence of arsenic in ground-water. Under oxidizing conditions in Arizona, arsenic in ground-water appears to be controlled in part by sorption or desorption of HAsO4∼2 on active ferric oxyhydroxide surfaces.


Arsenic Selenium Vanadium Burial Large Concentration 
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Copyright information

© Sciences and Technology Letters 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick N. Robertson
    • 1
  1. 1.US Geological SurveyTucsonUSA

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