Redox trapping of arsenic during groundwater discharge in sediments from the Meghna riverbank in Bangladesh

S. Datta, B. Mailloux, H.-b. Jung, M. A. Hoque, M. Stute, K. M. Ahmed, Y. Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Groundwater arsenic (As) is elevated in the shallow Holocene aquifers of Bangladesh. In the dry season, the shallow groundwater discharges to major rivers. This process may influence the chemistry of the river and the hyporheic zone sediment. To assess the fate of As during discharge, surface (0–5 cm) and subsurface (1–3 m) sediment samples were collected at 9 sites from the bank of the Meghna River along a transect from its northern source (25° N) to the Bay of Bengal (22.5° N). Bulk As concentrations of surface sediment averaged 16 ± 7 mg/kg (n = 9). Subsurface sediment contained higher mean concentrations of As of 4,000 mg/kg (n = 14), ranging from 1 to 23,000 mg/kg As, with >100 mg/kg As measured at 8 sites. X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy indicated that As was mainly arsenate and arsenite, not As-bearing sulfides. We hypothesize that the elevated sediment As concentrations form as As-rich groundwater discharges to the river, and enters a more oxidizing environment. A significant portion of dissolved As sorbs to iron-bearing minerals, which form a natural reactive barrier. Recycling of this sediment-bound As to the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta aquifer provides a potential source of As to further contaminate groundwater. Furthermore, chemical fluxes from groundwater discharge from the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta may be less than previous estimates because this barrier can immobilize many elements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16930-16935
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number40
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


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