Geochemistry and Cr stable isotopes of Cr-contaminated groundwater in León valley, Guanajuato, México

Alejandro Villalobos-Aragón, Andre S. Ellis, María A. Armienta, Ofelia Morton-Bermea, Thomas M. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


León valley, located in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, has a long history (35+ a) of Cr contamination of groundwater and surface water. Here data are presented for Cr, major ion and trace element concentrations and Cr stable isotope measurements of groundwater in a heavily contaminated aquifer in Buenavista, where Cr ore processing residue piles (COPRPs) located in a chromate production factory are the main source of Cr. The aquifer directly beneath the factory still retains very high Cr(VI) concentrations (~121mg/L). Ongoing pump and treat remediation is keeping the high concentration plume confined to the factory area and immediate vicinity, though Cr is also detected at some distance away. Chromium isotope data of the aquifer directly under the factory show only a small increase in δ 53Cr (+0.33‰ to +0.81‰) and indicates minimal reduction of Cr(VI) to Cr(III). Very high Cr(VI) concentrations have possibly overwhelmed natural reductants and furthermore fresh Cr(VI) was being leached into the groundwater from the COPRP. From just one year of Cr isotope data it is clear that more aggressive remediation techniques will be necessary to reduce or eliminate the contamination. The fringes of the Cr plume have substantially lower concentrations and can be partially explained by transport of the main plume or mixing between waters from the nearby landfill and highly contaminated waters from QC. While the source of Cr at the fringes of the plume could be attributed to a source from the nearby landfill instead of the main plume from the factory, the Cr stable isotope data show enrichment in the heavier isotopes and point to varying amounts of reduction. Isotopic enrichment seen between 2007 and 2008 along the fringe may indicate either reduction or less unreacted Cr(VI) is being transported to the fringes. In either case some potential for natural attenuation of Cr(VI) exists at the western margin of the plume with the landfill playing a role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1783-1794
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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