CHEMICAL INTERACTIONS OF URANIUM IN WATER, SEDIMENTS, AND PLANTS ALONG A WATERSHED ADJACENT TO THE ABANDONED JACKPILE MINE
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
The chemical interactions, mobility, and plant uptake of uranium (U) near abandoned mine wastes was investigated along the Rio Paguate, adjacent to the Jackpile Mine, located in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico. Elevated U concentrations in surface water adjacent to mine waste range from 30 to 710 µg/L seasonally and decrease to 5.77 to 10.0 µg/L at a wetland 4.5 kilometers downstream of the mine. Although U concentrations in stream water are elevated, aqua regia acid digestions performed on co-located stream bed and stream bank sediments reveal that there is limited U accumulation on sediments along the reach between the mine and wetland, with most sediment concentrations being near the 3 mg/kg crustal average. However, U concentrations in sediments in the wetland are 4 times the background concentrations in the area. Individual results from salt cedar roots, stems, and leaves collected along the river transect show higher U concentrations in the roots adjacent to the mine waste (20 and 55 mg/kg) and lower in the stems and leaves. Translocation values calculated below 1 are evident in many of the plant samples, suggesting that U root to shoot translocation is minimal and U is accumulating in the roots. Concentrations of U in salt cedar roots from downstream of the mine waste decrease to 15 mg/kg. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis on sediment samples adjacent to the mine waste show a 75:25% ratio of Fe(III) to Fe(II), which can have an effect on adsorption properties. Electron microprobe results suggest that the ore in this area is present as a uranium-phosphate phase. Our results suggest that dilution, uptake by plants, and U sorption to wetland sediments are the dominant factors that help to decrease the U concentrations downstream of the mine.