Articles | Volume 13, issue 12
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 2315–2327, 2009
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 2315–2327, 2009

  08 Dec 2009

08 Dec 2009

Variability of the groundwater sulfate concentration in fractured rock slopes: a tool to identify active unstable areas

S. Binet1,2,3,5, L. Spadini2, C. Bertrand3, Y. Guglielmi4, J. Mudry3, and C. Scavia5 S. Binet et al.
  • 1Institut des Sciences de la Terre d'Orléans, ISTO, UMR 6113, Université d'Orléans, CNRS/INSU, Université François Rabelais, Tours, Campus Géosciences, 1A, rue de la Férollerie, 45071 Orléans cedex 2, France
  • 2Laboratoire de Géophysique interne et tectonophysique, LGIT, UMR 5559, Université Joseph Fourier, CNRS/INSU, Observatoire de Grenoble, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble, France
  • 3Laboratoire de Chrono-Environnement, LCE, UMR 6249, Université de Franche-Comté, CNRS/INSU France
  • 4GéoSciences Azur (GA), UMR6526, CNRS/INSU/IRD, UR082, Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur, Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris VI, 250 rue A. Einstein, 06560 Valbonne, France
  • 5Dipartemento Ingegneria Strutturale e Geotecnica, DIST, Politecnico di Torino, Corso Duca Abruzzi 24, 10129 Torino, Italy

Abstract. Water chemical analysis of 100 springs from the Orco and the Tinée valleys (Western Italy and Southern France) and a 7 year groundwater chemistry monitoring of the 5 main springs were performed. All these springs drain from crystalline rock slopes. Some of these drain from currently active gravitational slope deformations.

All groundwaters flowing through presently unstable slopes show anomalies in the sulfate concentrations compared to stable aquifers. Particularly, an increase of sulfate concentrations was observed repeatedly after each of five consecutive landslides on the La Clapière slope, thus attesting to the mechanical deformations are at the origin of this concentration change. Significant changes in the water chemistry are produced even from slow (mm/year) and low magnitude deformations of the geological settings.

Pyrite nuclei in open fractures were found to be coated by iron oxides. This suggests that the increase of dissolved sulfate relates to oxidative dissolution of Pyrite. Speciation calculations of Pyrite versus Gypsum confirmed that observed changes in the sulfate concentrations is predominantly provided from Pyrite. Calculated amounts of dissolved minerals in the springs water was obtained through inverse modelling of the major ion water analysis data. It is shown that the concentration ratio of calculated dissolved Pyrite versus calculated dissolved gneiss rock allows us to unambiguously distinguish water from stable and unstable areas. This result opens an interesting perspective for the follow-up of sliding or friction dynamic in landslides or in (a) seismic faults.