Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Iron precipitate accumulations associated with waterways in drained coastal acid sulfate landscapes of eastern Australia

L. A. Sullivan A B and R. T. Bush A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Acid Sulfate Soil Research, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 55(7) 727-736
Submitted: 22 April 2004  Accepted: 16 August 2004   Published: 1 October 2004


Iron precipitate accumulations from surface environments surrounding waterways (such as the side of drains and soil surface horizons) in acid sulfate soil landscapes were analysed for their mineralogy, micromorphology and chemical properties. Schwertmannite (Fe8(OH)5.5(SO4)1.25) was the dominant mineral in these accumulations. Goethite (α-FeOOH) was the other iron precipitate mineral identified in these accumulations and the data indicate that this iron mineral was formed from schwertmannite, often as pseudomorphs after schwertmannite. The schwertmannite in these accumulations had similar morphology and chemical properties to schwertmannite reported for environments affected by acid mine drainage. The activity of Fe3+ in the drainage waters in these landscapes appears to be controlled by schwertmannite during both low flow (dry season) and flood conditions. Iron precipitate accumulations contained appreciable amounts of stored acidity (i.e. titratable actual acidity of between 164 and 443 mol (H+) t–1, and 1900 to 2580 mol (H+) t–1 of schwertmannite upon complete conversion to goethite) that tends to buffer these waters to very acidic conditions (i.e. pHs ~3.0–3.5). The relationship between water quality (i.e. pH and sulfate concentration) and type of iron precipitate mineral formed should enable the mineralogy of the iron precipitates in these surface environments to be used to help identify the degree of severity of degradation in these acid sulfate soil landscapes and to monitor the effectiveness of remediation programmes.

Extra keywords: geochemistry, goethite, micromorphology, mineralogy, schwertmannite, water quality.


We would like to acknowledge the assistance of David Andrighetto in helping to collect and prepare some of the iron precipitate samples used in this study for analysis.


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