Waste-water impacts on groundwater: Cl/Br ratios and implications for arsenic pollution of groundwater in the Bengal Basin and Red River Basin, Vietnam

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

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Abstract

Across West Bengal and Bangladesh, concentrations of Cl in much groundwater exceed the natural, upper limit of 10 mg/L. The Cl/Br mass ratios in groundwaters range up to 2500 and scatter along mixing lines between waste-water and dilute groundwater, with many falling near the mean end-member value for waste-water of 1561 at 126 mg/L Cl. Values of Cl/Br exceed the seawater ratio of 288 in uncommon NO3-bearing groundwaters, and in those containing measurable amounts of salt-corrected SO4 (SO4 corrected for marine salt). The data show that shallow groundwater tapped by tube-wells in the Bengal Basin has been widely contaminated by waste-water derived from pit latrines, septic tanks, and other methods of sanitary disposal, although reducing conditions in the aquifers have removed most evidence of NO3 additions from these sources, and much evidence of their additions of SO4. In groundwaters from wells in palaeo-channel settings, end-member modelling shows that > 25% of wells yield water that comprises ≥ 10% of waste-water. In palaeo-interfluvial settings, only wells at the margins of the palaeo-interfluvial sequence contain detectable waste water. Settings are identifiable by well-colour survey, owner information, water composition, and drilling. Values of Cl/Br and faecal coliform counts are both inversely related to concentrations of pollutant As in groundwater, suggesting that waste-water contributions to groundwater in the near-field of septic-tanks and pit-latrines (within 30 m) suppress the mechanism of As-pollution and lessen the prevalence and severity of As pollution. In the far-field of such sources, organic matter in waste-water may increase groundwater pollution by As.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-402
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume437
Early online date6 Sep 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • waste-water
  • Cl/Br
  • arsenic
  • groundwater
  • Bengal
  • chloride

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