Hexavalent chromium is one of the most toxic and carcinogenic species known and can be released into the environment from several sources. In Sarigkiol basin (N Greece) the presence of Cr(VI) in soil, sediments and groundwater may originate from both natural (ophiolitic rocks and their weathering products) and anthropogenic (dispersed fly ash produced from lignite power plants) sources. In this study, the distribution of contents and origin of environmentally available Cr(VI) in soils, sediments, regoliths and fly ash of Sarigkiol basin is presented. Detailed geochemical and mineralogical studies were performed on soil samples (up to 1 m) and regoliths, while leaching tests were also applied to fresh and old fly ash samples. Leachable chromium from soil and sediment samples generally increased with depth and the highest concentrations were observed near to the power plant of Agios Dimitrios. The speciation of chromium in leachates revealed that Cr(VI) concentrations accounted for more than 96% of total Cr. Leaching tests of regoliths established that the natural contribution of Cr(VI) is up to 14 μg kg-1. Therefore, the measurement of higher concentrations (up to 80 μg kg-1) of environmentally available Cr(VI) in soils and sediments can be attributed to the impact/presence of dispersed fly ash in the soils and sediments of the same area. This was also supported by the low correlation recorded between environmentally available chromium and Cr-bearing minerals (mainly serpentine and talc). The influenced zone is located in the eastern part of the basin near the local power plant and surrounds an open conveyor belt that transfers fly ash to an open temporary storage pit. This zone overlies an unconfined porous aquifer thus explaining the elevated concentrations of Cr(VI) in groundwater (up to 120 μg L-1) previously reported in this area.
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