When tungsten is exposed to oxygen -- a process called oxidation -- it often seeps into the ground and even into groundwater-bearing aquifers. During this process the tungsten can also mix with organic matter present in natural soils. In the presence of sulfur rich solutions, it forms thiotungstate complexes, which are also toxic.
To gather information the researchers are looking at pristine aquifers, like the Ogallala, as well as affected aquifers. Data from these findings can be used to create a conceptual model for this project and future studies, Datta said.
"Looking at emerging contaminants is one of the biggest things for an environmental geoscientist, and health is a big issue connected to any elemental or environmental study we do," Datta said.
"We are trying to approach this project from the standpoint of understanding this element and its behaviors in the environment before taking our findings to the general public so the situation can be addressed," he said.
Datta's previous work studied arsenic levels in the groundwater in West Bengal, India, and Bangladesh. Along with a K-State graduate student, he looked at why naturally occurring arsenic -- another toxin in nature -- got into groundwater from river-borne sediments, and finding well locations for cleaner water.
|Contact: Saugata Datta|
Kansas State University