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In situ oxalic acid injection to accelerate arsenic remediation at a superfund site in New Jersey

Karen Wovkulich A B E , Martin Stute B C , Brian J. Mailloux C , Alison R. Keimowitz D , James Ross B , Benjamin Bostick B , Jing Sun A B and Steven N. Chillrud B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.

B Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY 10964, USA.

C Department of Environmental Sciences, Barnard College, New York, NY 10027, USA.

D Department of Chemistry, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604, USA.

E Corresponding author. Present address: Department of Chemistry, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12604, USA. Email: kawovkulich@vassar.edu

Environmental Chemistry 11(5) 525-537 https://doi.org/10.1071/EN13222
Submitted: 7 December 2013  Accepted: 25 June 2014   Published: 25 September 2014

Environmental context. Arsenic is one of the most common contaminants at US Superfund sites; therefore, establishing techniques to accelerate As remediation could benefit many sites. In a pilot scale study, we determined that addition of oxalic acid to the subsurface has the potential to increase arsenic release from sediments and possibly improve remediation efficiency by pump and treat techniques. Because pump and treat remediation can require many decades to sufficiently decrease contaminant levels, methods for improving remediation could lead to substantial savings in time and resources.

Abstract. Arsenic is a prevalent contaminant at a large number of US Superfund sites; establishing techniques that accelerate As remediation could benefit many sites. Hundreds of tonnes of As were released into the environment by the Vineland Chemical Co. in southern New Jersey during its manufacturing lifetime (1949–1994), resulting in extensive contamination of surface and subsurface soils and sediments, groundwater, and the downstream watershed. Despite substantial intervention at this Superfund site, sufficient aquifer clean up could require many decades if based on traditional pump and treat technologies only. Laboratory column experiments have suggested that oxalic acid addition to contaminated aquifer solids could promote significant As release from the solid phase. To evaluate the potential of chemical additions to increase As release in situ and boost treatment efficiency, a forced gradient pilot scale study was conducted on the Vineland site. During spring and summer 2009, oxalic acid and bromide tracer were injected into a small portion (~50 m2) of the site for 3 months. Groundwater samples indicate that introduction of oxalic acid led to increased As release. Between 2.9 and 3.6 kg of As were removed from the sampled wells as a result of the oxalic acid treatment during the 3-month injection. A comparison of As concentrations on sediment cores collected before and after treatment and analysed using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy suggested reduction in As concentrations of ~36 % (median difference) to 48 % (mean difference). Although further study is necessary, the addition of oxalic acid shows potential for accelerating treatment of a highly contaminated site and decreasing the As remediation time-scale.


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