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Net alkalinity and net acidity 1: Theoretical considerations

January 1, 2005

Net acidity and net alkalinity are widely used, poorly defined, and commonly misunderstood parameters for the characterization of mine drainage. The authors explain theoretical expressions of 3 types of alkalinity (caustic, phenolphthalein, and total) and acidity (mineral, CO2, and total). Except for rarely-invoked negative alkalinity, theoretically defined total alkalinity is closely analogous to measured alkalinity and presents few practical interpretation problems. Theoretically defined "CO 2-acidity" is closely related to most standard titration methods with an endpoint pH of 8.3 used for determining acidity in mine drainage, but it is unfortunately named because CO2 is intentionally driven off during titration of mine-drainage samples. Using the proton condition/mass- action approach and employing graphs to illustrate speciation with changes in pH, the authors explore the concept of principal components and how to assign acidity contributions to aqueous species commonly present in mine drainage. Acidity is defined in mine drainage based on aqueous speciation at the sample pH and on the capacity of these species to undergo hydrolysis to pH 8.3. Application of this definition shows that the computed acidity in mg L -1 as CaCO3 (based on pH and analytical concentrations of dissolved FeII, FeIII, Mn, and Al in mg L -1):aciditycalculated=50{1000(10-pH)+[2(FeII)+3(FeIII)]/56+2(Mn)/ 55+3(Al)/27}underestimates contributions from HSO4- and H+, but overestimates the acidity due to Fe3+ and Al3+. However, these errors tend to approximately cancel each other. It is demonstrated that "net alkalinity" is a valid mathematical construction based on theoretical definitions of alkalinity and acidity. Further, it is shown that, for most mine-drainage solutions, a useful net alkalinity value can be derived from: (1) alkalinity and acidity values based on aqueous speciation, (2) measured alkalinity minus calculated acidity, or (3) taking the negative of the value obtained in a standard method "hot peroxide" acidity titration, provided that labs report negative values. The authors recommend the third approach; i.e., net alkalinity = -Hot Acidity. ?? 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2005
Title Net alkalinity and net acidity 1: Theoretical considerations
DOI 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2005.07.002
Authors C.S. Kirby, C.A. Cravotta
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Applied Geochemistry
Series Number
Index ID 70027885
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pennsylvania Water Science Center