Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Chromium, chromium isotopes and selected trace elements, western Mojave Desert, USA

January 1, 2008

Chromium(VI) concentrations in excess of the California Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 50 μg/L occur naturally in alkaline, oxic ground-water in alluvial aquifers in the western Mojave Desert, southern California. The highest concentrations were measured in aquifers eroded from mafic rock, but Cr(VI) as high as 27 μg/L was measured in aquifers eroded from granitic rock. Chromium(VI) concentrations did not exceed 5 μg/L at pH < 7.5 regardless of geology. δ53Cr values in native ground-water ranged from 0.7 to 5.1‰ and values were fractionated relative to the average δ53Cr composition of 0‰ in the earth’s crust. Positive δ53Cr values of 1.2 and 2.3‰ were measured in ground-water recharge areas having low Cr concentrations, consistent with the addition of Cr(VI) that was fractionated on mineral surfaces prior to entering solution. δ53Cr values, although variable, did not consistently increase or decrease with increasing Cr concentrations as ground-water flowed down gradient through more oxic portions of the aquifer. However, increasing δ53Cr values were observed as dissolved O2 concentrations decreased, and Cr(VI) was reduced to Cr(III), and subsequently removed from solution. As a result, the highest δ53Cr values were measured in water from deep wells, and wells in discharge areas near dry lakes at the downgradient end of long flow paths through alluvial aquifers. δ53Cr values at an industrial site overlying mafic alluvium having high natural background Cr(VI) concentrations ranged from −0.1 to 3.2‰. Near zero δ53Cr values at the site were the result of anthropogenic Cr. However, mixing with native ground-water and fractionation of Cr within the plume increased δ53Cr values at the site. Although δ53Cr was not necessarily diagnostic of anthropogenic Cr, it was possible to identify the extent of anthropogenic Cr at the site on the basis of the δ53Cr values in conjunction with major-ion data, and the δ18O and δD composition of water from wells.

Publication Year 2008
Title Chromium, chromium isotopes and selected trace elements, western Mojave Desert, USA
DOI 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2007.11.015
Authors J. A. Izbicki, J. W. Ball, T.D. Bullen, S. J. Sutley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Applied Geochemistry
Index ID 70033341
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program