Fluoride Action Network

Geochemical occurrence of arsenic, vanadium and fluoride in groundwater of Patagonia, Argentina: Sources and mobilization processes

Source: Journal of South American Earth Sciences, 89:1-9. | January 5th, 2019 | By María del Pilar Alvarez and Eleonora Carol
Location: Argentina
Industry type: Volcanoes


  • The As, V and F presence in the groundwater of Peninsula Valdes is due to a natural origin.
  • Volcanic particles and iron oxides of the Miocene sediments shows the highest As concentrations.
  • Groundwater pH conditions the volcanic shards dissolution and therefore the As, V and F release.


Contamination of groundwater in different parts of the world is a result of natural and/or anthropogenic sources, leading to adverse effects on human health and the ecosystem. In Península Valdés, where groundwater is the only source of supply, high concentrations of As and F- were registered. Since it is a region without industrial activity, an analysis of possible natural sources of contamination is necessary. The aim of this study is to analyse the hydrological processes that determines the presence and mobilization of those elements through the analysis of the mineralogy of the aquifer sediments and the ionic water relationships. The productive aquifer, dominated by psamites, coquinas and siltstone is located between 29 and 42?m below ground surface. The hydrochemistry studied from 105 sampling points, shows that groundwater is dominated by Na-Cl ions and, in the fresh water sectors, the ionic type is Na-HCO3 to Na-Cl. In 17 of these samples, Zn, Cr, Mn, As, V, Sr, Fe, F ions were measured and As and F contents above the potability limit were recorded. These contents vary between 0.01 and 0.40?mg/L in As and between 0.31 and 4 in F- which are both associated with elevated V values. The optical petrographic microscope observations and the X-ray diffraction measurements show that the sediments are dominated by volcanic lithic fragments, volcanic glass shards and quartz, plagioclase, pyroxenes and magnetite clasts. The scanning electron microscopy, combined with the energy dispersive X-ray analysis, shows that the highest concentrations of As are associated with volcanic shards and iron oxides. The combined analysis of all these elements leads to conclude that the processes which explain the presence of those ions are a result of the interaction of groundwater with the components of the aquifer sediments. At alkaline pH, the high solubility of the amorphous silica of vitreous shards allows the release of As, V and F- ions towards the solution. Thus, adsorption-desorption processes can also control the presence of these ions in groundwater. Both As and V (in solution in the form of oxyanions) can be adsorbed by iron oxides, while F- anions have more affinity to be adsorbed by the carbonate facies, some of them re-precipitated as a result of the increase in pH. The identified hydrogeological processes provide information for the planning of water purification measures that tend to improve the water resources management in a large arid region of Patagonia.

*Abstract online at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0895981118302116