Surface complexation modeling of arsenic mobilization from goethite: Interpretation of an in-situ experiment

Lucien Stolze, Di Zhang, Huaming Guo, Massimo Rolle*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    Sorption has been recognized as a predominant process for the mobility and transport of arsenic (As) in groundwater. However, the model-based description of the chemical and physical mechanisms controlling As interaction with mineral surfaces under natural hydrochemical conditions remains a formidable challenge. In this study we assess and compare the ability of existing surface complexation models (SCMs), the diffuse double layer model (DDL) and the charge distribution multisite complexation model (CD-MUSIC), to simulate As desorption from goethite in groundwater. We consider the outcomes of an in-situ experiment recently performed in an arsenic-contaminated aquifer of Northern China where As-loaded goethite-coated sand was deployed in 7 monitoring wells. Determination and measurements of As-surface species were carried out over a time period of 80 days in all monitoring wells. Simultaneous calibration of the models with the measurements in the 7 wells was performed to obtain single sets of surface complexation parameters for the DDL and the CD-MUSIC models, respectively. Although the general dynamic pattern of the As release at the site is captured by both models, the approach based on the CD-MUSIC agrees best with the field experimental data without modifications of the surface complexation database compiled from previous studies on goethite. Conversely, calibration of the DDL affinity constants led to substantial improvement in the agreement between model simulations and the considered field dataset.

    The model outcomes and the exploration of the sensitivity of the goethite surface composition to changes in hydrochemical conditions provide insights into the mechanisms controlling arsenic sorption and their different description in the DDL and the CD-MUSIC models. Both SCMs indicate that PO43− acts as the main competitor for As(V) sorption sites, and that Fe(II) does not have a significant effect on the As(V) release despite its strong affinity for the goethite surface. Neither SCM suggests direct binding of As(III) to goethite. However, the CD-MUSIC model predicts significant formation of a goethite-Fe(II)-As(III) complex under the mildly alkaline conditions of the groundwater at the field site and that such complex is insensitive to phosphate competition. The CD-MUSIC implementation also allows capturing the non-linear charge effects of the major ions, including Ca2+ and Mg2+ and , which appear to have important implication in the mechanisms of As sorption at the field site.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
    Pages (from-to)274-288
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Arsenic
    • Goethite
    • Surface complexation
    • Modeling
    • CD-MUSIC
    • DDL


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