Characterization of accumulated precipitates during subsurface iron removal

Doris Van Halem, W. W. J. M. De Vet, Jasper Q J C Verberk, Gary L. Amy, Hans C. Van Dijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The principle of subsurface iron removal for drinking water supply is that aerated water is periodically injected into the aquifer through a tube well. On its way into the aquifer, the injected O2-rich water oxidizes adsorbed Fe 2+, creating a subsurface oxidation zone. When groundwater abstraction is resumed, the soluble Fe 2+ is adsorbed and water with reduced Fe concentrations is abstracted for multiple volumes of the injection water. In this article, Fe accumulation deposits in the aquifer near subsurface treatment wells were identified and characterized to assess the sustainability of subsurface iron removal regarding clogging of the aquifer and the potential co-accumulation of other groundwater constituents, such as As. Chemical extraction of soil samples, with Acid-Oxalate and HNO3, showed that Fe had accumulated at specific depths near subsurface iron removal wells after 12 years of operation. Whether it was due to preferred flow paths or geochemical mineralogy conditions; subsurface iron removal clearly favoured certain soil layers. The total Fe content increased between 11.5 and 390.8 mmol/kg ds in the affected soil layers, and the accumulated Fe was found to be 56-100% crystalline. These results suggest that precipitated amorphous Fe hydroxides have transformed to Fe hydroxides of higher crystallinity. These crystalline, compact Fe hydroxides have not noticeably clogged the investigated well and/or aquifer between 1996 and 2008. The subsurface iron removal wells even need less frequent rehabilitation, as drawdown increases more slowly than in normal production wells. Other groundwater constituents, such as Mn, As and Sr were found to co-accumulate with Fe. Acid extraction and ESEM-EDX showed that Ca occurred together with Fe and by X-ray Powder Diffraction it was identified as calcite. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-124
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Pollution


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