The Science of the total environment

Source of arsenic-bearing pyrite in southwestern Vermont, USA: sulfur isotope evidence.

PMID 24726513


Arsenic-bearing pyrite is the source of arsenic in groundwater produced in late Cambrian and Ordovician gray and black slates and phyllites in the Taconic region of southwestern Vermont, USA. The aim of this study is to analyze the sulfur isotopic composition of this pyrite and determine if a relationship exists between pyrite δ(34)S and arsenic content. Pyrite occurs in both sedimentary/diagenetic (bedding-parallel layers and framboids) and low-grade metamorphic (porphyroblast) forms, and contains up to >2000 ppm As. The sulfur isotopic composition of arsenic-bearing pyrite ranges from -5.2‰ to 63‰. In the marine environment, the sulfur in sedimentary pyrite becomes increasingly enriched in (34)S as the geochemical environment becomes increasingly anoxic. There is a positive correlation between δ(34)S and arsenic content in the Taconic pyrite, suggesting that uptake of arsenic by pyrite increased as the environment became more reducing. This increased anoxia may have been due to a rise in sea level and/or tectonic activity during the late Cambrian and Ordovician. Low-grade metamorphism appears to have little effect on sulfur isotope composition, but does correlate with lower arsenic content in pyrite. New groundwater wells drilled in this region should therefore avoid gray and black slates and phyllites that contain sedimentary/diagenetic pyrite with heavy δ(34)S values.

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Sulfur, PESTANAL®, analytical standard