School of Earth Sciences - Theses

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    Investigating potential pathways to remediate thiocyanate-contaminated groundwater and wastewater at a Victorian gold mine
    Bosnjak, Angelina ( 2014)
    Thiocyanate (SCN-) is toxic to higher organisms, affecting the central nervous system, to cause irritability, nervousness, hallucinations, psychosis, mania, delirium and convulsions. This contaminant is commonly associated with gold mining activities and forms when cyanide, used for extraction of gold, reacts with reduced sulphur species in wastewater. Significant concentrations of thiocyanate have been detected in groundwater bores around the No. 2 Tailings Dam at Stawell Gold Mine in Victoria, with concentrations steadily increasing over time. Thiocyanate can be eliminated from groundwater and wastewater by oxidation to less harmful products such as ammonia and sulphate through chemical oxidation and biodegradation. Certain bacterial strains indigenous to thiocyanate-contaminated sites have demonstrated the ability to degrade thiocyanate and can be used to remediate contaminated land and water. Chemical and biological oxidation of thiocyanate was explored in this study through synthetic abiotic laboratory redox optimisation experiments and field-based injection experiments to determine the controls on thiocyanate degradation and potential pathways which could be implemented to remediate thiocyanate-contaminated groundwater and wastewater at the site. Analysis of site groundwater chemistry and aquifer properties revealed the presence of a plume of thiocyanate in acidic to near-neutral groundwater outside the tailings dam wall at monitoring bores SE12 and SE14 confined to the upper unconsolidated aquifer with low hydraulic conductivity (0.001-0.004 m/d) and low transmissivity (0.01-0.05 m2/d). The source of thiocyanate at the site was determined as the tailings dam. Inconclusive results from the nitrate reduction-thiocyanate oxidation experiments in synthetic and actual groundwater and wastewater suggests that nitrate may not form a redox couple with thiocyanate. However, in acidic solutions (pH 2) of Fe-EDTA and thiocyanate heated to 80°C, the Fe2+ was generated from thermal degradation of the Fe-EDTA compound, while thiocyanate was completely hydrolysed within 22 days. Catalysis of thiocyanate hydrolysis by iron reduction was not determined. However, solution pH and temperature were important factors, as thiocyanate hydrolysis did not proceed at pH 5.5 and 80°C. At pH 2, the hydrolysis of thiocyanate was faster at 80°C compared to 70°C. Thiocyanate-degrading microorganisms were not successfully stimulated in simulated injection (push-pull) experiments, as no appreciable decrease in thiocyanate concentrations was observed in groundwater or wastewater replicates.
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    Occurrence of nitrate in soil and groundwater in the Corangamite area, Western Victoria
    Bayne, Phillip James M. ( 1996)
    Soil and groundwater samples taken from two areas of different land use in the Corangamite Region, 200 km west of Melbourne, were analysed for nitrate and ammonium, and in some cases chloride. Both sites are located on the Later Newer Volcanics 'stone rises', and groundwater was sampled from nested bores which intersect the shallow unconfined aquifer and deeper semi-confined aquifer at both sites. The Carpendeit site is an area of native Eucalypt forest, and the Purrumbete North site is a pasture for grazing dairy cows. Low concentrations of nitrate (< 1 mgN/L) in groundwater at Carpendeit correspond to low soil nitrate concentrations (< 3 µgN/cm3 ). Higher groundwater nitrate concentrations occurred in the shallow unconfined aquifer at Purrumbete North, (up to 3 mgN/L), but not in the lower semi-confined aquifer, and corresponds to higher nitrate concentrations in soil (1 to 60 µgN/cm3 ). Elevated nitrate concentrations also occurred in groundwater discharge at McVeans Springs, in the range 2.61 to 4.72 mgN/L, and at Ettrick Springs in the range 8.08 to 16.07 mgN/L, greater than the limit of 10 mgN/L for drinking water specified in ANZECC water quality guidelines. Nitrate in soil under the pasture is probably derived primarily from the activity of nitrogen fixing bacteria associated with subterranean clover introduced to the pasture. Soil nitrate distributions suggest intense return of nitrogen in dung and urea occurs at 'camps' locations on the pasture, where cows tend to gather for shelter. Transport of nitrogen to shallow groundwater is stimulated by cracks and channels in the basalt clay soils. Local groundwater flow includes interaction with the many lakes and temporary ponds 'which form in surface depressions at times of high rainfall. The ponds probably serve as an effective nitrate supply in recharge to the shallow aquifer.