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Geochemistry of As-, F- and B-bearing waters in and around San Antonio de los Cobres, Argentina, and implications for drinking and irrigation water quality

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  • Earth Sciences
  • Agricultural Science
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science


Spring, stream and tap waters from in and around San Antonio de los Cobres, Salta, Argentina, were sampled to characterize their geochemical signatures, and to determine whether they pose a threat to human health and crops. The spring waters are typical of geothermal areas world-wide, in that they are Na-Cl waters with high concentrations of Astot, As(III), Li, B, HCO3, F and SiO2 (up to 9.49, 8.92, 13.1, 56.6, 1250, 7.30 and 57.2 mg L-1, respectively), and result from mixing of deep Na-Cl brines and meteoric HCO3-rich waters. Springs close to the town of San Antonio have higher concentrations of all elements, and are generally cooler, than springs in the Baños de Agua Caliente. Spring water chemistry is a result of mixing of deep Na-Cl brines and meteoric HCO3 waters. Stream waters are also Na-Cl type, and receive large inputs of all elements from the springs near San Antonio, but concentrations decrease downstream through the town of San Antonio due to mineral precipitation. The spring that is used as a drinking water source, and other springs in the area, have As, F and B concentrations in excess of WHO and Argentinian drinking water guidelines. Evaluation of the waters for irrigation purposes suggests that their high salinities and B concentrations may adversely affect crops. The waters may be improved for drinking and irrigation by dilution with cleaner meteoric waters, mineral precipitation or by use of commercial filters. Such recommendations could also be followed by other settlements that draw drinking and irrigation waters from geothermal sources.

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