Author(s): Cnovas CR, Olias M, VazquezSu E, Ayora C, Miguel Nieto J
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Abstract The Tinto River is an extreme case of pollution by acid mine drainage (AMD), with pH values below 3 and high sulphate, metal and metalloid concentrations along its main course. This study evaluates the impact of releases from a freshwater reservoir on the Tinto River, identifying the metal transport mechanisms. This information is needed to understand the water quality evolution in the long term, and involves the comprehension of interactions between AMD sources, freshwaters, particulate matter and sediments. This work proposes a methodology for quantifying the proportions in which the different sources are contributing. The method is based on the mass balance of solutes and accounts for the uncertainty of end-members. The impact of the releases from the Corumbel Reservoir on the hydrochemistry of the Tinto River was significant, accounting up to a 92\% of river discharge. These releases provoked a sharp decrease in dissolved metal concentrations, especially for Fe (approximately 1000 fold) due to dilution and precipitation. Cadmium, Zn, Cu, Co, Ni and Al suffered a dilution to a 12-16 fold decrease while Ca, Sr, Na, Pb and Si were less affected (2-4 folds decrease). However, these releases also gave rise to an increase in particulate transport, mainly Fe, As, Cr, Ba, Pb and Ti, due to sediment remobilisation and Fe precipitation. Aluminium, Li, K, Si, Al, Ni and Sr, together with Cu were present in the particulate phase during the discharge peak. The proposed 2-component mixing model revealed the existence of non-conservative behaviour for Al, Ca, Li, Mn, Ni and Si as a consequence of the interactions between the acidic Tinto waters and the clay-rich reservoir sediments during the bottom outlet opening. These results were improved by a 3-component mixing model, introducing a new end-member to account the chemical dissolution of clay-rich sediments by acidic Tinto waters. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Sci Total Environ
and referenced in International Journal of Waste Resources