Arsenic Speciation and the Controls on its Release in Contaminated Sediments and Corresponding Toxicological Effects at Giant Mine, NWT
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Arsenic (As) contamination presents an ecosystem and human health risk at Giant Mine, a historic gold mine near Yellowknife, NWT currently undergoing the final stages of assessment for remediation. Arsenic concentration is elevated in sediments at Giant Mine due to contamination from several forms of mine waste including flotation tailings, roaster calcine and impoundment spills. The Giant Mine Remediation Project has stated aims to remediate the surface of the site, including Baker Creek which runs through the property, to a condition that is a productive environmental habitat and spawning ground. Environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) and synchrotron-based micro- X-ray Absorption Near Edge Spectroscopy (µXANES), micro-X-ray fluorescence (μXRF) and micro-X-ray diffraction (μXRD) techniques were employed to characterize the As-host phases and determine the solid-phase speciation of As in mine waste and sediments. Arsenopyrite, Fe-oxides, Fe-root plaque, and As_2 O_3 were the major phases identified. Sediment toxicity was measured using 10-day Chironomus dilutes and 21-day Pimephales promelas exposure tests. The toxicity tests found responses ranging of from 100% mortality at the most contaminated site to no statistical difference to the control groups in the least As contaminated site. Toxicity test chamber conditions were directly monitored with dialysis probes (mini-peepers) and Diffusive Gradients in Thin Films (DGTs). DGT and mini-peeper deployment in the test beakers allowed for direct correlation of their measurements to trace metal uptake and bioaccumulation during the toxicity tests. Linear regression and ANOVA statistics were used to correlate, when possible, As tissue concentrations in Chironomus dilutes and Pimephales promelas to DGT, mini-peeper and surface water concentration measurements. Statistical analysis was also conducted for Co, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn, and Sb though these other metal/metalloids were not always suitable for analysis due to constraints caused by detection limits. It was found that DGT As was statistically correlated (r2=0.836 and p<0.0005) to uptake in Pimephales promelas but that total element concentrations were also statistically relevant and slightly better at predicting uptake (r2=0.873 and p<0.0005). Mini-peepers could not be analyzed statistically due to challenges in their use within some highly vegetated sediment samples.