NATURAL ATTENUATION OF ANTHROPOGENIC CHROMIUM IN SELECTED PUYE FORMATION IN REGIONAL AQUIFER SYSTEM OF LOS ALAMOS, NEW MEXICO
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Routine groundwater monitoring conducted in 2005 revealed significant chromium (Cr) contamination in regional groundwater in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Previous use of potassium dichromate (K2Cr2O7) in cooling towers at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s main power plant is believed to be the source of the elevated chromium levels. From 1956 to 1972 between 31,000 and 72,000 Kg of toxic Cr(IV) was released into Sandia Canyon. Initial investigations of the vadose zone using chromium isotopes indicated that reduction of anthropogenic Cr(IV) had occurred. However, to justify the use of Monitoring Natural Attenuation (MNA) as a valid remediation strategy, the Cr attenuation mechanism and the reduction capacity of the regional aquifer needs to be determined. Conventional batch sorption and synchrotron-based X-ray absorption spectroscopy studies were performed. Two samples were selected from the Puye formation, a silicoclastic sedimentary rock sequence located within the contaminated aquifer. Additionally, two Los Alamos Puye outcrop samples with no chromium exposure were selected for comparison. Each sample was subsequently sorted based on grain size, magnetic, and clay fractions. Groundwater with a known concentration of Cr(IV) was used in the batch experiments. Spectroscopy measurements of Puye samples before and after exposure to the same contaminated groundwater were conducted at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL). Batch sorption results indicated little to no attenuation, as indicated by the small measured sorption coefficient (Kd < 5 Kg/L). Spectroscopic measurements suggest that attenuation of hexavalent chromium in groundwater is due to reduction of Cr(VI) to Cr(III) in the Puye and may be attributed almost exclusively to the clay fraction. These results indicate that the tested Puye sediments occurring in the regional aquifer have minor ability to naturally attenuate anthropogenic Cr(IV), with the clay fraction dominating the reduction process. This study provides a field prediction model with reliable chromium reactive transport parameters in relevant geological settings.