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Arsenic within the secondary environment resulting from geogenic inputs, Harlech Dome, United Kingdom

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Abstract

There has been a growing awareness of As in the environment due to both anthropogenic and geogenic loading. This study quantifies the presence of As in river water, river sediment and groundwater within the Harlech Dome region of the UK, an area underlain by Cambro–Ordovician aged mineralization. Published data regarding As levels in UK groundwater are relatively rare compared to elsewhere. Arsenic levels in groundwater (0.1–18 µg l−1) and river sediment (1.5–142 mg kg−1) exceed environmental quality guidelines and indicate the release of As into the secondary environment from predominantly geogenic sources. Modelling of dissolved As speciation using ORP–pH diagrams predicts the presence of As in both arsenate (As5+) and arsenous acid (As3+) species, which possess differing solubilities and mobilities. Calculation of enrichment factors (EFs) for As in river sediments, using Al as a reference element, indicates highest EFs, and therefore As release, occurs in streams draining the Coed-y-Brenin region in the south-east of the Harlech Dome. This area is underlain by an as yet unexploited porphyry copper deposit. Data indicate that the presence of potentially harmful elements within the environment may occur with or without the presence of major anthropogenic activity.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Professor Ron Fuge for his valuable comments and insight into the geochemistry of the Harlech Dome and Dr Anna Santoro (School of Chemistry, Bangor University) for arranging the ICP-OES analyses.

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Correspondence to Graham Bird.

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Bird, G., Bell, H.E.G. & Perkins, W.T. Arsenic within the secondary environment resulting from geogenic inputs, Harlech Dome, United Kingdom. Environ Earth Sci 72, 3521–3530 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-014-3261-2

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