American Chemical Society
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Sedimentological Control on Mn, and Other Trace Elements, In Groundwater of the Bengal Delta

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-01-17, 00:00 authored by J. M. McArthur, P. K. Sikdar, B. Nath, N. Grassineau, J. D. Marshall, D. M. Banerjee
To reveal what controls the concentration and distribution of possibly hazardous (Mn, U, Se, Cd, Bi, Pb) and nonhazardous (Fe, V, Mo, PO4) trace elements in groundwater of the Bengal delta, we mapped their concentrations in shallow groundwater (<60 mbgl) across 102 km2 of West Bengal. Only Mn is a potential threat to health, with 55% of well water exceeding 0.3 mg/L, the current Indian limit for drinking water in the absence of an alternate source, and 75% exceeding the desirable limit of 0.1 mg/L. Concentrations of V are <3 μg/L. Concentrations of U, Se, Pb, Ni, Bi, and Cd, are below WHO guideline values.The distributions of Fe, Mn, As, V, Mo, U, PO4, and δ18O in groundwater reflect subsurface sedimentology and sources of water. Areas of less negative δ18O reveal recharge by sources of evaporated water. Concentrations of Fe, As, Mo, and PO4 are high in palaeo-channel groundwaters and low in palaeo-interfluvial groundwaters. Concentrations of U, V, and Mn, are low in palaeo-channel groundwaters and high in palaeo-interfluvial groundwaters. Concentrations of Fe and Mn are highest (18 and 6 mg/L respectively) at dual reduction-fronts that form strip interfaces at depth around the edges of palaeo-interfluvial aquifers. The fronts form as focused recharge carries dissolved organic carbon into the aquifer margins, which comprise brown, iron-oxide bearing, sand. At the Mn-reduction front, concentrations of V and Mo reach peak concentrations of 3 μg/L. At the Fe-reduction front, concentrations of PO4 and As reach concentrations 3 mg/L and 150 μg/L respectively. Many groundwaters contain >10 mg/L of Cl, showing that they are contaminated by Cl of anthropogenic origin and that organic matter from in situ sanitation may contribute to driving reduction.