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TitleGeochemical evolution of groundwater flowing through arsenic source sediments in an aquifer system of West Bengal, India
AuthorDesbarats, A J; Pal, T; Mukherjee, P K; Beckie, R D
SourceWater Resources Research vol. 53, no. 11, 2017 p. 8715-8735,
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20160442
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
AreaWest Bengal; India
Subjectshydrogeology; arsenic; arsenic geochemistry; aquifers; organic carbon; groundwater geochemistry; groundwater flow; groundwater pollution; chlorite; goethite; vivianite; precipitation
Illustrationsgraphs; cross-sections; plots
ProgramManagement, Environmental Geoscience
AbstractThe source of geogenic arsenic (As) contaminating a shallow aquifer in West Bengal was traced to fine-grained sediments deposited in an abandoned river channel. Along with As-bearing phases, these sediments contain 0:46 % co-deposited organic carbon. The release of As and the geochemistry of groundwater within the channel-fill deposits is investigated using a detailed mass balance model supported by aqueous, solid-phase, and mineralogical data. The model describes the evolution of groundwater chemistry along a flow path extending from its recharge in an abandoned channel pond, through the channel fill, to the underlying aquifer. Variations in groundwater composition are explained in terms of mineral weathering of host sediments driven by organic carbon decay. Arsenic is released through the reductive dissolution of goethite and the weathering of chlorite. Concomitantly, some As is sequestered in precipitating vivianite. These competing processes reach equilibrium deeper in the channel-fill sequence as groundwater As concentrations stabilize. The model yields estimates of mineral reaction (or precipitation) rates including rates of organic carbon oxidation (1:15 mmol C L-1 a-1) and net As release (4:57 x 10-4 mmol L-1 a-1). Fine-grained, slightly permeable, deposits such as channel fill containing reactive organic carbon and As-bearing goethite and phyllosilicates are centers of intense chemical weathering conducive to As mobilization.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Groundwater contamination by geogenic arsenic is impacting the health of over 100 million people across Asia. According to the World Health Organisation, this is the largest mass poisoning in history. To advance understanding of the arsenic source and fundamental processes involved in its release, scientists from the Geological Surveys of Canada and India, and the University of British Columbia, undertook a joint research project in an affected village of West Bengal. This paper describes the geochemical evolution of groundwater as it flows through arsenic source sediments deposited in an abandoned river meander. A mass balance model was developed to explain groundwater composition and arsenic release in terms of the dissolution or precipitation of minerals found in the sediments. This study has yielded new knowledge of arsenic hosts and release processes, and it represents an important step toward the development of sound public health mitigation schemes in India and elsewhere.