Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Arce G., Montecinos M., Guerra P., Escauriaza C., Coquery M. and Pastén P. (2017)

Enhancement of particle aggregation in the presence of organic matter during neutralization of acid drainage in a stream confluence and its effect on arsenic immobilization

Revista : Chemosphere
Volumen : 180
Páginas : 574-583
Tipo de publicación : ISI Ir a publicación


Acid drainage (AD) is an important environmental concern that impacts water quality. The formation of reactive Fe and Al oxyhydroxides during the neutralization of AD at river confluences is a natural attenuation process. Although it is known that organic matter (OM) can affect the aggregation of Fe and Al oxyhydroxides and the sorption of As onto their surfaces, the role of OM during the neutralization of AD at river confluences has not been studied. Field and experimental approaches were used to understand this role, using the Azufre River (pH 2) – Caracarani River (pH 8.6) confluence (northern Chile) as model system. Field measurements of organic carbon revealed a 10–15% loss of OM downstream the confluence, which was attributed to associations with Fe and Al oxyhydroxides that settle in the river bed. Laboratory mixtures of AD water with synthetic Caracarani waters under varying conditions of pH, concentration and type of OM revealed that OM promoted the aggregation of Fe oxyhydroxides without reducing As sorption, enhancing the removal of As at slightly acidic conditions (pH ∼4.5). At acidic conditions (pH ∼3), aggregation of OM – metal complexes at high OM concentrations could become the main removal mechanism. One type of OM promoted bimodal particle size distributions with larger mean sizes, possibly increasing the settling velocity of aggregates. This work contributes to a better understanding of the role of OM in AD affected basins, showing that the presence of OM during processes of neutralization of AD can enhance the removal of toxic elements.