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  1. We investigated the mechanisms of uranium (U) uptake by Tamarix (salt cedars) growing along the Rio Paguate, which flows throughout the Jackpile mine near Pueblo de Laguna, New Mexico. Tamarix were selected for this study due to the detection of U in the roots and shoots of field collected plants (0.6–58.9 mg kg −1 ), presenting an average bioconcentration factor greater than 1. Synchrotron-based micro X-ray fluorescence analyses of plant roots collected from the field indicate that the accumulation of U occurs in the cortex of the root. The mechanisms for U accumulation in the roots of Tamarix were further investigated in controlled-laboratory experiments where living roots of field plants were macerated for 24 h or 2 weeks in a solution containing 100 μM U. The U concentration in the solution decreased 36–59% after 24 h, and 49–65% in two weeks. Microscopic and spectroscopic analyses detected U precipitation in the root cell walls near the xylems of the roots, confirming the initial results from the field samples. High-resolution TEM was used to study the U fate inside the root cells, and needle-like U–P nanocrystals, with diameter <7 nm, were found entrapped inside vacuoles in cells. EXAFS shell-by-shell fitting suggest thatmore »U is associated with carbon functional groups. The preferable binding of U to the root cell walls may explain the U retention in the roots of Tamarix , followed by U–P crystal precipitation, and pinocytotic active transport and cellular entrapment. This process resulted in a limited translocation of U to the shoots in Tamarix plants. This study contributes to better understanding of the physicochemical mechanisms affecting the U uptake and accumulation by plants growing near contaminated sites.« less
  2. The mobility and accumulation of uranium (U) along the Rio Paguate, adjacent to the Jackpile Mine, in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico was investigated using aqueous chemistry, electron microprobe, X-ray diffraction and spectroscopy analyses. Given that it is not common to identify elevated concentrations of U in surface water sources, the Rio Paguate is a unique site that concerns the Laguna Pueblo community. This study aims to better understand the solid chemistry of abandoned mine waste sediments from the Jackpile Mine and identify key hydrogeological and geochemical processes that affect the fate of U along the Rio Paguate. Solid analyses using X-ray fluorescence determined that sediments located in the Jackpile Mine contain ranges of 320 to 9200 mg kg −1 U. The presence of coffinite, a U( iv )-bearing mineral, was identified by X-ray diffraction analyses in abandoned mine waste solids exposed to several decades of weathering and oxidation. The dissolution of these U-bearing minerals from abandoned mine wastes could contribute to U mobility during rain events. The U concentration in surface waters sampled closest to mine wastes are highest during the southwestern monsoon season. Samples collected from September 2014 to August 2016 showed higher U concentrations in surface water adjacentmore »to the Jackpile Mine (35.3 to 772 μg L −1 ) compared with those at a wetland 4.5 kilometers downstream of the mine (5.77 to 110 μg L −1 ). Sediments co-located in the stream bed and bank along the reach between the mine and wetland had low U concentrations (range 1–5 mg kg −1 ) compared to concentrations in wetland sediments with higher organic matter (14–15%) and U concentrations (2–21 mg kg −1 ). Approximately 10% of the total U in wetland sediments was amenable to complexation with 1 mM sodium bicarbonate in batch experiments; a decrease of U concentration in solution was observed over time in these experiments likely due to re-association with sediments in the reactor. The findings from this study provide new insights about how hydrologic events may affect the reactivity of U present in mine waste solids exposed to surface oxidizing conditions, and the influence of organic-rich sediments on U accumulation in the Rio Paguate.« less
  3. The reactivity of metals associated with ash from wood collected from the Valles Caldera National Preserve, Jemez Mountains, New Mexico, was assessed through a series of laboratory experiments. Microscopy, spectroscopy, diffraction, and aqueous chemistry measurements were integrated to determine the chemical composition of wood ash and its effect on water chemistry. Climate change has caused dramatic impacts and stresses that have resulted in large-scale increases in wildfire activity in semi-arid areas of the world. Metals and other constituents associated with wildfire ash can be transported by storm event runoff and negatively affect the water quality in streams and rivers. Differences among ash from six tree species based on total concentrations of metals such as Ca, Al, Mg, Fe, and Mn were identified using non-metric multidimensional analysis. Metal-bearing carbonate and oxide phases were quantified by X-ray diffraction analyses and X-ray spectroscopy analyses. These metal-bearing carbonate phases were readily dissolved in the first 30 minutes of reaction with 18 MΩ water and 10 mM HCO 3 − in laboratory batch experiments which resulted in the release of metals and carbonates in the ash, causing water alkalinity to increase. However, metal concentrations decreased over the course of the experiment, suggesting that metals re-adsorbmore »to ash. Our results suggest that the dissolution of metal-bearing carbonate and oxide phases in ash and metal re-adsorption to ash are relevant processes affecting water chemistry after wildfire events. These results have important implications to better understand the impact of wildfire events on water quality.« less