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Heavy metal contamination from geothermal sources.

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Design
  • Earth Science
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Liquid-dominated hydrothermal reservoirs, which contain saline fluids at high temperatures and pressures, have a significant potential for contamination of the environment by heavy metals. The design of the power conversion cycle in a liquid-dominated geothermal plant is a key factor in determining the impact of the installation. Reinjection of the fluid into the reservoir minimizes heavy metal effluents but is routinely practiced at few installations. Binary power cycles with reinjection would provide even cleaner systems but are not yet ready for commercial application. Vapor-dominated systems, which contain superheated steam, have less potential for contamination but are relatively uncommon. Field data on heavy metal effluents from geothermal plants are sparse and confounded by contributions from "natural" sources such as geysers and hot springs which often exist nearby. Insofar as geothermal power supplies are destined to multiply, much work is required on their environmental effects including those caused by heavy metals.

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