Santofimia, E., López Pamo, E., Palomino, E. J., González Toril, E., Aguilera, A. 2017. Acid rock drainage in Nevado Pastoruri glacier area (Huascaran National Park, PerA): hydrochemical and mineralogical characterization and associated environmental implications. Environmental Science and Pollution Research 24, 32, 25243-25259 DOI: 10.1007/s11356-017-0093-0
The generation of acid rock drainage (ARD) was observed in an area of Nevado Pastoruri as a result of the oxidative dissolution of pyrite-rich lutites and sandstones. These ARDs are generated as abundant pyrite becomes exposed to atmospheric conditions as a result of glacier retreat. The proglacial zone contains lagoons, springs, streams and wetlands, scant vegetation, and intense fluvioglacial erosion. This work reports a comprehensive identification and the results of sampling of the lagoons and springs belonging to the microbasin, which is the headwaters of the Pachacoto River, as well as mapping results based on the hydrochemical data obtained in our study. The physical properties and water chemistry of 12 springs and 22 lagoons from the proglacial zone are also presented. Water springs are far from being chemically uniform, with pH and EC values ranging between 2.55-6.42 and 23-1110 mu S/cm respectively, which suggests a strong geologic control on water chemistry. Fe-SO4 (-2) concentrations confirm the intense process of pyrite oxidative dissolution. Many of the lagoons are affected by ARD, with low pH (similar to 3), and high EC (256-1092 mu S/cm) values when compared with unaffected lagoons (EC between 7 and 59 mu S/cm), indicating a high degree of mineralization. The affected lagoons show higher concentrations of SO4 (2-) and SiO2, and elements as Fe, Al, Mg, Mn, Zn, Co, and Ni, which are related to the alteration of pyrite and the dissolution of aluminosilicate minerals. Schwertmannite-goethite appears to be the most important mineral phases controlling the Fe solubility at a pH of 2-3.5. Moreover, they act as a sorbent of trace elements (As, Sb, V, Pb, Zn, Cr), which is an efficient mechanism of natural attenuation. Despite of this, the water flowing out from the basin is acid (pH 3.1) and contains significant concentrations of Fe (0.98 mg/L) and Al (3.76 mg/L) that confer mineral acidity to water. The Pachacoto River located 5.5 km downstream from this point showed a strong natural attenuation, with a pH of 6.9 and low concentration of metals. This mitigating process is possible due to (i) the formation of precipitates that retain toxic elements and (ii) the mixing with natural waters that promote dilution, which favor the increase of pH until circumneutral conditions.