Active volcanoes emit considerable amounts of contaminants such as As, Se and V. Mount Etna is the biggest volcano of Europe and an excellent geochemical site to study water-soil processes. Due to its volcanic activity, the rainwater has a strong compositional gradient, both in time and space. At present, the behaviour of trace elements in the soils around Mt Etna is poorly understood. To determine the influence of the rainwater pH on the potential mobilization of geogenic pollutants, batch experiments have been performed with synthetic rainwater for 25 soils collected along the flanks of the volcano. Our results show that:i)The maximum concentrations in the leaching solutions are higher for acid rain than for neutral rain (e.g. 7.7 vs 1.3 mg/L for Se). ii)With neutral rain conditions the soils upwind from the volcano have higher concentrations of Se than those downwind (up to 1.3 mg/L compared to ≤0.3 mg/L for the other samples). This trend is less clear for As and V.iii)For soils collected from 2 to 10 km downwind of the craters, Se concentrations in acid rain leachates decrease one order of magnitude with increasing distance. A similar pattern is also observed upwind from the volcano. For As and V no clear relationship between concentrations and location with respect to the volcanic craters is observed.Both i) and ii) result in a low pH dependence for samples upwind from the volcano. The biggest difference between acid and neutral leaching for As and V is observed for a sample 2 km downwind from the craters. The observed patterns are influenced by potential controlling factors, such as organic matter content, total concentrations, mineralogy, influence of the volcanic plume, etc. Our results have implications for the chemical composition of the Etnean aquifer, the only water resource to the one million inhabitants around Mt Etna, as well as for the bioavailability and potential toxicity through agricultural activities, essential to the local economy.
|Number of pages||1|
|Publication status||Published - 2009|