Physico-Chemical Heterogeneity of Organic-Rich Sediments in the Rifle Aquifer, CO: Impact on Uranium Biogeochemistry - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles Environmental Science and Technology Year : 2016

Physico-Chemical Heterogeneity of Organic-Rich Sediments in the Rifle Aquifer, CO: Impact on Uranium Biogeochemistry

Abstract

The Rifle alluvial aquifer along the Colorado River in west central Colorado contains fine-grained, diffusion-limited sediment lenses that are substantially enriched in organic carbon and sulfides, as well as uranium, from previous milling operations. These naturally reduced zones (NRZs) coincide spatially with a persistent uranium groundwater plume. There is concern that uranium release from NRZs is contributing to plume persistence or will do so in the future. To better define the physical extent, heterogeneity and biogeochemistry of these NRZs, we investigated sediment cores from five neighboring wells. The main NRZ body exhibited uranium concentrations up to 100 mg/kg U as U(IV) and contains ca. 286 g of U in total. Uranium accumulated only in areas where organic carbon and reduced sulfur (as iron sulfides) were present, emphasizing the importance of sulfate-reducing conditions to uranium retention and the essential role of organic matter. NRZs further exhibited centimeter-scale variations in both redox status and particle size. Mackinawite, greigite, pyrite and sulfate coexist in the sediments, indicating that dynamic redox cycling occurs within NRZs and that their internal portions can be seasonally oxidized. We show that oxidative U(VI) release to the aquifer has the potential to sustain a groundwater contaminant plume for centuries. NRZs, known to exist in other uranium-contaminated aquifers, may be regionally important to uranium persistence.
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Dates and versions

hal-02535730 , version 1 (06-12-2023)

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Noemie Janot, Juan S Lezama Pacheco, Don Q Pham, Timothy O’brien, Debra Hausladen, et al.. Physico-Chemical Heterogeneity of Organic-Rich Sediments in the Rifle Aquifer, CO: Impact on Uranium Biogeochemistry. Environmental Science and Technology, 2016, 50 (1), pp.46-53. ⟨10.1021/acs.est.5b03208⟩. ⟨hal-02535730⟩
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