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Distribution of arsenic in surficial deposits in the Cold Lake area of Alberta, Canada Open Access


Other title
Cold Lake area
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Javed, Muhammad B
Supervisor and department
Dr. Tariq Siddique (Department of Renewable Resources)
Examining committee member and department
Dr. Derek Peak (Soil science)
Dr. Daniel Alessi (Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
Dr. Gary Kachanoski (Department of Renewable Resources)
Dr. William Shotyk (Department of Renewable Resources)
Department of Renewable Resources
Soil science
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Arsenic (As) concentration above the Health Canada and WHO drinking water guidelines of 10 µg L-1 in the Cold Lake area, Alberta is an issue of concern for environmental and human health. The source of groundwater As is ambiguous. This study was initiated to characterize the surficial deposits (sediments) drilled up to ~300 m depth from five different locations in the area to determine distribution and fractionation of As in sediments so that the potential source(s) of groundwater As could be inferred. Total As concentration in sediments (n = 135) ranged from 0.8 to ~35 µg g-1, but no significant correlation was found between As and sediments depth, lithology or geological formation. Maximum average As (~32 µg g-1; n = 2) was found in sediments derived from shale. In addition, 20-25 µg g-1 As was also found in glacial till of Bonnyville, Grand Centre and Empress formations at some depths, might be due to mixing of underlying shale during glaciation. To study the association of As with different inorganic and organic phases in sediments, a modified sequential extraction method was developed and employed on selected sediments (n = 22). Around 6-46 % of the total As was exchangeable and specifically adsorbed in all the sediments. Sediments having 7-35 µg g-1 As also contained significant sulfide bound As (11-34 % of total As). XRD and SEM-EDX analyses confirmed the presence of pyrite (FeS2), and µ-XRD analysis signaled the presence of arsenopyrite (FeAsS) in high As sediments (~20 µg g-1 As). XANES spectroscopy showed dominance of arsenite (AsIII; ~60-90 % of total As) in all the sediments. In addition, effect of heat on As release from sediments was also studied to simulate the condition in the sediments near the steam injection wells that are installed for bitumen extraction. Effect of thermal treatment (~200o C heat) on As release from sediments exhibited significant increase in the dissolved As concentrations (from 120 µg L-1 to ~1400 µg L-1) in the synthetic aquifer water. These findings may help understand the effect of in-situ oil extraction technique such as cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) on As and other metal mobilization in aquifers/groundwater. A detailed speciation method for AsIII, AsV and DMAA was also optimized, so that if a fresh core would acquire from the area As speciation could reliably be studied to infer the mobility and toxicity of As.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Javed M. B., Kachanoski G., Siddique T. A modified sequential extraction method for arsenic fractionation in sediments. Anal Chim Acta 2013;787:102–110.Javed M. B., Kachanoski G., Siddique T. Arsenic fractionation and mineralogical characterization of sediments in the Cold Lake area of Alberta, Canada. Sci Total Environ 2014;500-501:181–190.

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