Arsenic release from pyrite ash waste over an active hydrogeological system and its effects on water quality

  • Diego Baragaño
  • Carlos Boente
  • Eduardo Rodríguez-Valdés
  • Alicia Fernández-Braña
  • Amalia Jiménez
  • José Luis R. Gallego
  • Beatriz González-FernándezEmail author
Research Article


Arsenic is a potentially toxic element of concern for environmental compartments, and it is a frequent pollutant in many abandoned industrial sites. In this study, geochemical and hydrogeological tools were used to determine the long-term effects of As-rich pyrite ash disposal (83,000 m3 as estimated by geostatistical tools) in a brownfield located over a quaternary alluvial aquifer. Throughout the site, soil pollution and water table oscillation led to leachates in the form of both run-off and infiltration waters, thereby reducing (ground)water quality (e.g. pH, electrical conductivity) and, in particular, increasing the concentration of arsenic (average approx. 4000 μg/l for one hydrological year). By means of laboratory and in situ measurements, the main mechanisms through which the sulphide remaining in the pyrite ash leaches were identified. In addition, to evaluate the effects of the polluted groundwater on the nearby main river, a mathematical approach using the Domenico analytical groundwater transport model revealed potential concentrations of 49 μg/l of arsenic in the junction between the study aquifer and the river, equivalent to an annual quantity of 49 kg of this element.


Arsenic Metals Pyrite ash Brownfield Groundwater pollution Soil pollution 



Electrical conductivity


Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry


Isotopic dilution analysis


Toxicity characteristic leaching procedure


Digital elevation model


Inverse distance weighted


Risk base correction action


Saturation index


Funding information

This work was partially supported by the project I+DARTS (LIFE11 ENV/ES/000547, EC). We would also like to thank the Environmental Assay Unit of the Scientific and Technical Services of the University of Oviedo for their support. Diego Baragaño and Carlos Boente obtained a grant from the “Formación del Profesorado Universitario” programme, financed by the “Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte de España”.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_7120_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.7 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1746 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diego Baragaño
    • 1
  • Carlos Boente
    • 1
  • Eduardo Rodríguez-Valdés
    • 1
  • Alicia Fernández-Braña
    • 1
  • Amalia Jiménez
    • 3
  • José Luis R. Gallego
    • 1
  • Beatriz González-Fernández
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.INDUROT and Environmental Technology, Biotechnology and Geochemistry GroupMieresSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Explotación y Prospección de MinasUniversidad de OviedoOviedoSpain
  3. 3.Departamento de GeologíaUniversidad de OviedoOviedoSpain

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