The distribution of arsenic in soils affected by the Aznalcóllar mine spill, SW Spain

M A Taggart, M Carlisle, D J Pain, R Williams, D Osborn, A Joyson, A A Meharg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


In April 1998, a holding lagoon containing pyrite ore processing waste, failed and released an estimated 5-6 million m(3) of metal rich sludge and acidic waters into the Rio Guadiamar, SW Spain. Over 2700 ha of the internationally important Doñana National and Natural Parks were contaminated. The sludge component of the waste contained up to 0.6% arsenic. This paper presents an extensive set of 0-5 cm soil analyses results from samples taken 6-8 months after the spill. Data are presented on pseudo-total arsenic levels in these samples, and on arsenic removed by both single batch and sequential extraction techniques. Pseudo-total levels of arsenic in the sludge ranged from 1521 to 3510 mg kg(-1), and a mean 4.4% of this was found to be extractable using 2.5% acetic acid. Soils in the Guadiamar Valley and Entremuros areas (those worst affected by the spill) were found to contain 85.4-782 mg kg(-1) and 7.1-196 mg kg(-1) pseudo-total arsenic, respectively. The mean acetic acid extractable component in these areas was 2.5% and 4.9%, respectively. Background pseudo-total arsenic levels in the soils of the area have been found to be 4.2-13.6 mg kg(-1). Rapid input of acidic waters, and the acidic nature of the sludge itself, may have caused depletion of Mg, Na and K, and to a lesser extent Mn, Ca and PO(4) in the upper 5 cm of the worst affected soils. Sequential extraction results suggest clear As-Fe associations, and possible As-Mn associations within the more soluble phases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-52
Number of pages16
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


Dive into the research topics of 'The distribution of arsenic in soils affected by the Aznalcóllar mine spill, SW Spain'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this