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TitleA geochemical characterization of southwestern Ontario's breathing well region
DownloadDownload (whole publication)
LicencePlease note the adoption of the Open Government Licence - Canada supersedes any previous licences.
AuthorFreckelton, C N; Hamilton, S M; Longstaffe, F J
SourceRegional-scale groundwater geoscience in southern Ontario: an Ontario Geological Survey, Geological Survey of Canada, and Conservation Ontario open house; by Russell, H A JORCID logo; Ford, D; Priebe, E H; Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 8212, 2017 p. 18, Open Access logo Open Access
PublisherNatural Resources Canada
MeetingOntario Geological Survey and Geological Survey of Canada groundwater geoscience open house; Guelph; CA; March 1-2, 2017
Documentopen file
Mediaon-line; digital
RelatedThis publication is contained in Regional-scale groundwater geoscience in southern Ontario: an Ontario Geological Survey, Geological Survey of Canada, and Conservation Ontario open house
File formatpdf
NTS30; 31C; 31D; 40; 41A; 41G; 41H/03; 41H/04; 41H/05; 41H/06; 41H/12; 41H/13
AreaSouthwestern Ontario
Lat/Long WENS -84.0000 -76.0000 46.0000 41.5000
Subjectshydrogeology; geochemistry; Middle Devonian; groundwater; groundwater resources; aquifers; groundwater regimes; water wells; bedrock geology; lithology; sedimentary rocks; carbonates; karst topography; evaporites; gas analyses; gas exchange; carbon dioxide; oxygen; groundwater geochemistry; geochemical analyses; hydraulic analyses; sulphates; isotopic studies; sulphur; iron; trace metals; zinc; lead; copper; silver; strontium; celestite; Lucas Formation; Dundee Formation; atmospheric gases; atmospheric pressure; pore space; Phanerozoic; Paleozoic; Devonian
ProgramGroundwater Geoscience, Aquifer Assessment & support to mapping
Released2017 02 22
AbstractA physical and geochemical characterization has been completed for a 1400 km2 breathing well zone in a Middle Devonian, karstic carbonate aquifer system in southwestern Ontario. Breathing wells are unusual because they draw in or emit large volumes of air, in response to fluctuations in atmospheric pressure. This behavior causes gas exchange between the atmosphere and the subsurface and quite commonly the expelled gases are depleted in oxygen and enriched in carbon dioxide. To better understand this unique atmosphere-geosphere connection, geochemical, hydraulic, and barometric data were used to investigate the interconnectivity within the breathing well zone. Regionally, 102 sites were sampled for groundwater chemistry characterization, and 10 wells located within the breathing well zone were monitored monthly over one year. Spatial and time series analyses reveal that most wells affected by the breathing well phenomena are drilled through the Dundee Formation and finished in the underlying Lucas Formation. The results suggest that a significant amount of unsaturated void space exists within the Lucas Formation, and that hypoxic, high CO2 gases are generated by several processes and emitted during low atmospheric pressure periods. Locally, groundwater shows remarkable chemical and isotopic stability over the 1 year monitoring period, which suggests a very large degree of storage in the aquifer. Regional distributions of groundwater facies types are strongly influenced by local hydrogeological conditions and consist dominantly of Na-Ca-HCO3, Ca-Mg-HCO3, Ca-Sr-HCO3, and Ca-Mg-SO4-types. The groundwater composition includes detectable levels of dissolved oxygen and elevated concentrations of sulphate. Sulphur isotopic data indicate that the sulphate results from two endmember processes: evaporite dissolution and oxidation of metallic sulphides. Evidence for the latter process also includes elevated concentrations of iron and trace metals including Zn, Pb, Cu and Ag. Very high strontium up to 80 mg/L comes from the dissolution of celestite (or celestine; SrSO4) in the absence of gypsum. This provides insight on the solution-karstification process that appears to have formed the breathing well system and may provide a tool for mapping the system in areas to the north where void space is saturated and air exchange is prevented.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Proceedings for Regional-Scale Groundwater Geoscience in Southern Ontario open house organized by the Ontario Geological Survey, Geological Survey of Canada and Conservation Ontario Geoscientists. Open house is on 2017-03-01 and 02. Purpose is public engagement and dissemination of geoscience completed in Southern Ontario during the past year.

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