Liberation of acidity and arsenic from schwertmannite: Effect of fulvic acid

Chamindra L. Vithana, Leigh A. Sullivan, Edward D. Burton, Richard T. Bush

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Schwertmannite is one of the major components that produces acidity in acid mine drainage (AMD) and acid sulfate soils (ASS) and is also known to be an effective scavenger of Arsenic (As) in such environments. Fulvic acid (FA) is an active component of natural organic matter (NOM) and is known to interact strongly with both schwertmannite and As. Two main environmental hazards related to schwertmannite are acidity liberation and potential re-mobilization of adsorbed or co-precipitated As upon hydrolysis. This study focused on understanding the behaviour of As-substituted schwertmannite with regard to the potential of acidity liberation, the effect of FA on acidity liberation from both pure and As-substituted synthetic schwertmannites, and the effect of FA on arsenic mobilization from As-substituted synthetic schwertmannite. This was investigated by means of short-term (48. h) titrations. The liberation of acidity from As-substituted schwertmannite and the effect of FA were examined at two pH values (i.e. 4.5 and 6.5) typical for ASS environments.As-substituted schwertmannite liberated a greater amount of acidity in comparison to pure schwertmannite at both pHs. Concentration of FA and pH each showed a strong influence on the liberation of acidity from both pure and As-schwertmannite. At the acidic pH (4.5), FA inhibited acidity liberation from schwertmannite. At the near neutral pH of 6.5, the concentration of FA played a critical role in affecting the liberation of acidity from schwertmannite. The initial liberation of acidity was enhanced from pure schwertmannite at pH6.5 by low FA concentration (1mgL-1) and from As-schwertmannite by both low (1mgL-1) and moderate (10mgL-1) FA concentrations. Interestingly, higher FA concentrations (25mgL-1) inhibited acidity liberation from both types of schwertmannite in comparison to the control (pure/As-schwertmannite titrated without added FA). FA enhanced the liberation of As from the As-schwertmannite at both pHs under oxidising conditions and the rate of As liberation was greater at the near neutral pH. The present study provides new insights on the effect of As-substitution on acidity liberation from schwertmannite and the role of FA on: a) liberation of acidity, and b) As mobilization, from schwertmannite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalChemical Geology
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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