Elevated As concentrations in shallow groundwater pose a major health threat in Bangladesh and similarly affected countries, yet there is little consensus on the mechanism of As release to groundwater or how it might be influenced by human activities. In this study, the rate of As release was measured directly with incubations lasting 11 months, using sediment and groundwater collected simultaneously in Bangladesh and maintained under anaerobic conditions throughout the study. Groundwater and gray sediment were collected as diluted slurries between 5 and 38 m in depth, a range over which ambient groundwater As concentrations increased from 20 to 100 mu g L-1. Arsenic was released to groundwater in slurries from 5 and 12 m in depth at a relatively constant rate of 21 +/- 4 (2 sigma) and 23 +/- 6 mu g As kg(-1) yr(-1), respectively. Amendment with a modest level of acetate increased the rate of As release only at 12 m (82 +/- 18 mu g kg(-1) yr(-1)). Although the groundwater As concentration was initially highest at 38 m depth, no release of As was observed. These results indicate that the spatial distribution of dissolved As in Bangladesh and local rates of release to groundwater are not necessarily linked. Iron release during the incubations did not occur concurrently with As release, providing further confirmation that the two processes are not directly coupled. Small periodic additions of oxygen suppressed the release of As from sediments at all three depths, which supports the notion that anoxia is a prerequisite for accumulation of As in Bangladesh groundwater.
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