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Geochemistry and acidity of sulphide-bearing postglacial sediments of western Finland

Abstract

The geochemistry, mineralogy, acidity and electric conductivity of sulphide-bearing postglacial sediments located on the coastal plains of western Finland were studied. Grain size and mineralogical analysis (eight samples studied) indicated that the sediments are silts dominated by primary minerals (quartz, feldspars), and that the clay fraction (<2µm), which made up less than one-third of the bulk samples, is enriched in phyllosilicates but depleted in quartz and feldspars, relative to bulk samples. As compared to the metal contents of the fine-fraction of glacial till (data of the Geological Survey of Finland), the fine sediments appear to be enriched in sulphur (median = 0.54%) and trace metals such as Ni (31 µg g−1), Zn (90 µg g−1), Co (13 µg g−1), Cr (48 µg g−1) and V (50 µg g−1). Statistical analysis indicated that aluminosilicates are the principal carrier phases of trace metals, and that sulphides and organic matter only partially control the distribution of elements other than S and C. A 3-g portion of 232 samples was oxidised in the laboratory by atmospheric oxygen for a period of 1 year. After this period of oxidation, 15 ml of water was added, after which pH and electric conductivity of the suspensions (sediment:water, 1:5) were measured. The quantities of elements mobilised by the oxidation was calculated from the dissolved concentrations found in 3 g of oxidised sediment suspended in 30 ml of deionised water (eight samples studied). The results of the experiment showed that the impact of sulphide oxidation on the pH and conductivity of the sediments is large, and that a high proportion (>13%) of the aqua-regia extractable contents of several elements (Co, Mn, Ca, Ni, Zn, Sr, Na and B) are mobilised at oxidation. Because of the high quantities of acidity and metals liberated at oxidation, it is argued that stream-water quality, which is poor in the study area, will not improve unless artificial draining is restricted in areas of sulphide sediments.

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Correspondence to Mats Åström.

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Åström, M., Björklund, A. Geochemistry and acidity of sulphide-bearing postglacial sediments of western Finland. Environmental Geochemistry and Health 19, 155–164 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018462824486

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  • geochemistry
  • metals
  • sulphide sediment
  • oxidation
  • acidification