Mineralogical Associations of Sedimentary Arsenic within a Contaminated Aquifer Determined through Thermal Treatment and Spectroscopy
Sedimentary arsenic (As) in the shallow aquifers of Bangladesh is enriched in finer-grained deposits that are rich in organic matter (OM), clays, and iron (Fe)-oxides. In Bangladesh, sediment color is a useful indicator of pore water As concentrations. The pore waters of orange sediments are usually associated with lower As concentrations (<50 µg/L) owing to abundant Fe-oxides which sorb As. Using this color signal as a guide, spectroscopic measurements alongside thermal treatment were extensively utilized for analyzing the properties of both Fe-oxides and clay minerals. This study uses Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and diffuse reflectance (DR) measurements along with thermal treatment to evaluate the solid-phase associations of As from sediment collected along the Meghna River in Bangladesh. The samples analyzed in this study were chosen to represent the various lithologies present at the study site and included riverbank sands (1 m depth), silt (6 m depth), aquifer sand (23 m depth), and a clay aquitard (37 m depth). The concentrations of sedimentary As and Fe were measured by X-ray fluorescence, and the spectroscopic measurements were taken on the samples prior to the thermal treatment. For the thermal treatment, sediment samples were placed in a preheated furnace at 600 ◦C for 3 h. The thermal treatment caused a deepening of reddish-brown hues in all samples, and the greatest change in color was observed in the finer-grained samples. The FTIR spectral analysis revealed that the clay minerals were composed primarily of illite, smectite, and kaolinite. The DR results indicate that the majority of Fe in sands was present as goethite; however, in the clay and silt samples, Fe was incorporated into the structure of clay minerals as Fe(II). The amount of structural Fe(II) was strongly positively correlated with the sedimentary As concentrations, which were highest in the finer-grained samples. After thermal treatment, the concentrations of As in the finer-grained samples decreased by an average of 40%, whereas the change in the As concentrations of the sand samples was negligible. These findings indicate that significant proportions of solid-phase As may be retained by OM and Fe(II)-bearing clay minerals.