Arsenic Mining Waste in the Catchment Area of the Madrid Detrital Aquifer (Spain)
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- Recio-Vazquez, L., Garcia-Guinea, J., Carral, P. et al. Water Air Soil Pollut (2011) 214: 307. doi:10.1007/s11270-010-0425-x
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In recent years, elevated arsenic concentrations in groundwater used for drinking water supplies have been recognised in the Madrid Tertiary detrital aquifer. Although only natural causes have been suggested as the source of arsenic, this study aims to highlight that the anthropogenic contribution cannot be disregarded. During the sub-catchment’s areas sampling, we found many geographical sites where natural arsenopyrite [FeAsS] originally encapsulated in pegmatite bodies and quartz veins, was artificially outcropped and dumped out, since mining wastes were scattered and exposed to weathering. Several mineral and ground specimens were collected to analyse its mineralogical and chemical composition by X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) and X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry and by Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM). Both, the abundant existence of secondary phases, such as scorodite [FeAsO4⋅2H2O] and jarosite [KFe3(SO4)2(OH)6], much more soluble than arsenopyrite, and the lixiviation experiments of arsenopyrite in acidic media to simulate acid mine drainage (AMD) conditions, usually found in old mining districts, point to a potential risk of arsenic contamination of surface water bodies, which operate as recharged waters of the aquifer in the studied area. The elemental determination of heavy metals present in ground samples by XRF analyses, reaching up to 1,173 mg kg–1 of copper, 347 mg kg–1 of lead and 113,702 mg kg–1 of arsenic; and the physicochemical and arsenic fractionation studies of soil samples, led us to classify the soil as Spolic Technosol (Toxic). The contamination of the area due to old mining activities could release arsenic to Madrid water supplies; accordingly, additional decontamination studies should be performed.