Diel behavior of rare earth elements in a mountain stream with acidic to neutral pH

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
By: , and 



Diel (24-h) changes in concentrations of rare earth elements (REE) were investigated in Fisher Creek, a mountain stream in Montana that receives acid mine drainage in its headwaters. Three simultaneous 24-h samplings were conducted at an upstream station (pH = 3.3), an intermediate station (pH = 5.5), and a downstream station (pH = 6.8). The REE were found to behave conservatively at the two upstream stations. At the downstream station, REE partitioned into suspended particles to a degree that varied with the time of day, and concentrations of dissolved REE were 2.9- to 9.4-fold (190% to 830%) higher in the early morning vs. the late afternoon. The decrease in dissolved REE concentrations during the day coincided with a corresponding increase in the concentration of REE in suspended particles, such that diel changes in the total REE concentrations were relatively minor (27% to 55% increase at night). Across the lanthanide series, the heavy REE partitioned into the suspended solid phase to a greater extent than the light REE. Filtered samples from the downstream station showed a decrease in shale-normalized REE concentration across the lanthanide series, with positive anomalies at La and Gd, and a negative Eu anomaly. As the temperature of the creek increased in the afternoon, the slope of the REE profile steepened and the magnitude of the anomalies increased.

The above observations are explained by cyclic adsorption of REE onto suspended particles of hydrous ferric and aluminum oxides (HFO, HAO). Conditional partition coefficients for each REE between the suspended solids and the aqueous phase reached a maximum at 1700 hours and a minimum at 0700 hours. This pattern is attributed to diel variations in stream temperature, possibly reinforced by kinetic factors (i.e., slower rates of reaction at night than during the day). Estimates of the enthalpy of adsorption of each REE onto suspended particles based on the field results averaged +82 kJ/mol and are similar in magnitude to estimates in the literature for adsorption of divalent metal cations onto clays and hydrous metal oxides. The results of this study have important implications to the use of REE as hydrogeochemical tracers in streams.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Diel behavior of rare earth elements in a mountain stream with acidic to neutral pH
Series title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2005.03.019
Volume 69
Issue 15
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 12 p.
First page 3747
Last page 3758
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