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Effect of Groundwater–Lake Interactions on Arsenic Enrichment in Freshwater Beach Aquifers

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journal contribution
posted on 02.09.2014, 00:00 by Jacky Lee, Clare Robinson, Raoul-Marie Couture
Field measurements combined with numerical simulations provide insight into the water exchange, groundwater flow, and geochemical processes controlling the mobility of arsenic (As) in freshwater beach aquifers. Elevated dissolved As (up to 56 μg/L) was observed 1–2 m below the shoreline at two sandy beaches on Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada. Water and solid-phase analyses suggest that Fe (hydr)­oxides present below the shoreline accumulate As, creating a risk of high As in the beach aquifer. Groundwater flow simulations combined with vertical hydraulic gradient measurements indicate that wave-induced flow recirculations across the groundwater–lake interface are significant. These recirculations, which vary with wave intensity and lake water level fluctuations, set up redox and pH gradients, where Fe precipitates and subsequently sequesters As. The elevated As concentrations observed at both beaches, combined with the distribution of other dissolved species, suggest that the As enrichment may be naturally occurring. Regardless of the As source, the interacting hydrologic and geochemical processes revealed may have important implications for the flux of As and also other oxyanions, such as phosphate, across the groundwater–lake interface in nearshore areas of the Great Lakes.