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Occurrence of arsenic in ultramafic rocks' alterites from nickel mines in New Caledonia: implications for the contamination of surface waters

Abstract : Arsenate As(V) and arsenite As(III) are toxic forms of arsenic in waters. The risk of As toxicity is high in small tropical islands because tap water is often provided from surface water, and As contamination of surface water is rarely studied. For instance, the risk is high in New Caledonia because 61% of the water comes from surface water, and nickel mines induce the dispersal of large quantities of ultramafic rocks's alterites rich in iron oxide-hydroxide, which are known to be associated with arsenite and arsenate. Levels exceeding the World Health Organization standard of 10 µg L −1 have been detected in rivers downstream of Ni mines, yet there is a lack of systematic assessment. Here, we analyzed total and exchangeable As in alterites collected near three active mines. Arsenate and arsenite adsorption capacity was studied using batch experiments. The results show that alterite contains total As contents ranging from 0.20 to 5.14 mg kg −1 , yet the primary mineralogical source of As remains unknown. No exchangeable arsenite was detected. Exchangeable arsenate amounted to 0.16 mg kg −1 , thus meaning that 10.3% of the total As is easily mobile. The maximum adsorption capacity of arsenate and arsenite in mining sediments was 1.05 mg kg −1. Overall, our findings reveal that ultramafic rock alterites are a source of arsenic in surface water in the form of suspended particulate matter, 10.3% of which being easily soluble.
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Dernière modification le : mercredi 12 août 2020 - 03:37:42

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Kévin Schneider, Monika Le Mestre, Isabelle Desriaux, Peggy Gunkel-Grillon. Occurrence of arsenic in ultramafic rocks' alterites from nickel mines in New Caledonia: implications for the contamination of surface waters. (0123456789) 1 3 Environmental Chemistry Letters, 2020, 18, pp.1397 - 1402. ⟨hal-02912881⟩

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