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Al is a critical ecotoxicant in surface waters impacted by acidic deposition. Apart from the most acidic surface waters, Al concentrations are often considered to be controlled by Al(OH)3 or aluminosilicate (clay) solubility for modelling studies. For many UK rivers there is no clear evidence for such solubility controls even though there is the potential under moderately acidic/alkaline conditions. Here, Al solubility in ground and river water is compared for acid sensitive catchments in mid-Wales. The results reveal that there may be a solubility control within the groundwater but a more complex state of affairs within the river. The groundwater is of high CO2 content and once in the river it degasses to raise pH. However, there is limited change in Al concentration and hence the solubility relationship is lost. The results flag the potential importance of groundwater solubility controls for Al and the potential for the groundwater zone to act as an Al filter. For positive alkalinity groundwaters, the high CO2 levels depress the pH to near the value for minimum Al solubility. However, there is no simple groundwater end-member. Examining Al solubility controls solely within the rivers provides cryptic and misleading clues to the hydrogeological controls for Al within catchments. Assessing the within-catchment processes requires direct measurement with full consideration of both inorganic and organic attenuation.
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Journal of Environmental Monitoring
- Information Point
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