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Quantification of Potential Arsenic Bioavailability in Spatially Varying Geologic Environments at the Watershed Scale Using Chelating Resins

Graciela Esther Lake

Potential arsenic toxicity in different geologic environments is dependent on total arsenic concentration and arsenic bioavailability. It is important to identify the geologic environments that may sequester arsenic because these systems can act as long-term sources for arsenic as well as retard transport and limit toxicity.

Bioavailability is defined as the readiness of a compound or element to be taken up by organisms (Gregorich et al., 2001), while potential bioavailability is possible uptake of a compound or element by organisms. The objective of this research is to quantify the potential bioavailability of arsenic in laboratory microcosms and in different geologic environments in the Nueces and San Antonio River Watersheds, Texas, using a chelating resin as an infinite sink.

To assess the applicability of chelating resins to estimate potential arsenic bioavailability in the field, iron-loaded DOWEX M4195 resin was used to extract arsenic from solutions and sediments (pond sediment, river sediment, and ephemeral stream sediment). The average percentage of arsenic sorbed from solution was 66% ? 0.16. Competition studies between arsenate, phosphate, and vanadate suggest there is moderate competition, reducing overall arsenic sorption to the resin in the presence of competing ions. Iron-loaded resin was then exposed to sediment samples spiked with increasing amounts of arsenic over 15, 30, 60 and 90 days. Results of the sediment study showed:

  1. increased arsenic sorption to the resin over time,
  2. small variations of potential bioavailable arsenic among geologically different sediments, and
  3. evidence of arsenic sequestration.

Field devices that housed iron-loaded resin were used to extract potentially bioavailable arsenic from sediment in six different geologic environments (i.e. lake, river, perennial stream, ephemeral stream, pond, and wetland) in the watersheds over a twenty-eight day period. The wetland (15.7 mmol As/g wet resin) and perennial stream sediments (11.0 mmol As/g wet resin) represented the maximal and minimal calculated potential bioavailability, respectively. However, the potentially bioavailable index calculated from mmol As/g wet resin extracted from field environments and mmol As/ g sediment in digested samples showed sequestration would be high in the wetland environment and high bioavailability in the perennial stream and river environments.

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