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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Water Selenium Speciation and Sediment Fractionation in a California Flow-Through Wetland System


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 29 No. 4, p. 1275-1283
    Received: July 30, 1999

    * Corresponding author(s): sugao@ucdavis.edu
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  1. S. Gao *,
  2. K. K. Tanji,
  3. D. W. Peters and
  4. M. J. Herbel
  1. U .C. Hansen Agricultural Learning Center, Santa Paula, CA 93060;
    U .S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA 94025.



A flow-through wetland system was established in the Tulare Lake Drainage District (TLDD) in California to determine if selenium (Se) from saline irrigation drainage can be removed prior to impoundment in evaporation basins to reduce potential toxicity to waterbirds. The objective of this research was to evaluate Se speciation, accumulation, and fractionation in the waters and sediments of the newly developed wetland system. The inlet water was dominated by selenate [Se(VI), 92%], with smaller percentages of selenite [Se(IV), 5%] and organic Se [org-Se(−II), 3%]. For the outflow water, the average percentage of Se(VI) was 72% in November 1997 and 59% in February 1999. This change may be due to an increase in either residence time and/or accumulation of organic detrital matter, which may enhance Se(VI) reduction processes. Selenium accumulation, transformation, and incorporation with the solid phase were all intensified in the surface sediment (<20 cm). The highest total Se concentrations in the sediments were found in the top 5 cm and concentrations dramatically decreased with depth. Elemental Se [Se(0)], as extracted by Na2SO3, was the largest fraction (average of 46%) of the total sediment Se, followed by organic matter-associated Se (OM-Se) extracted by NaOH (average of 34%). Soluble, adsorbed, and carbonate-associated Se, as extracted by KCl, K2HPO4 (pH 8.0), and NaOAc (pH 5.0), were about 3, 10, and 3% of the total sediment Se, respectively. After establishing the wetland for 2 yr, significant Se removal from the flowing water was observed. The major sink mechanisms in the sediment are reduction to Se(0) and immobilization into the organic phase.

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