Sources of low-arsenic groundwater in the Bengal Basin: investigating the influence of the last glacial maximum palaeosol using a 115-km traverse across Bangladesh

M. A. Hoque, J. M. McArthur, P. K. Sikdar

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Abstract

Pollution of groundwater in the Bengal Basin (Bangladesh and West Bengal, India) by arsenic (As) puts at risk the health of more than 100 million consumers. Using 1,580 borehole lithological logs and published hydrochemistry on 2,387 wells, it was predicted that low-As (<10 μg/L) groundwater exists, in palaeo-interfluvial aquifers of brown sand capped by a protective palaeosol, beneath at least 45,000 km2 of the Bengal Basin. The aquifers were predicted to be at a depth of as little as 25 m below ground level (mbgl), and typically no more than 50 mbgl. The predictions were confirmed along an east–west traverse 115 km in length (i.e. across half of Bangladesh) by drilling 28 new boreholes to 91-m depth to reveal subsurface sedimentology, and by mapping As distribution in groundwater. The aquifers identified occur at typically <40 mbgl and so are accessible with local drilling methods. A protective palaeosol that caps the palaeo-interfluvial aquifers prevents downward movement into them of As-polluted groundwater present in shallower palaeo-channel aquifers and ensures that the palaeo-interfluvial aquifers will yield low-As groundwater for the foreseeable future. Their use, in place of the shallower As-polluted palaeo-channel aquifers, would rapidly mitigate the health risks from consumption of As-polluted groundwater.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1535-1547
Number of pages13
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Volume22
Issue number7
Early online date28 May 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • arsenic
  • contamination
  • Bangladesh
  • palaeo-interfluve
  • palaeo-channel

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