Elevated concentrations of sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl -) in surface and ground water are common in the United States and other countries, and can serve as indicators of, or may constitute, a water quality problem. We have characterized the most prevalent natural and anthropogenic sources of Na+ and Cl- in ground water, primarily in Illinois, and explored techniques that could be used to identify their source. We considered seven potential sources that included agricultural chemicals, septic effluent, animal waste, municipal landfill leachate, sea water, basin brines, and road deicers. The halides Cl-, bromide (Br-), and iodide (I-) were useful indicators of the sources of Na+-Cl- contamination. Iodide enrichment (relative to Cl-) was greatest in precipitation, followed by uncontaminated soil water and ground water, and landfill leachate. The mass ratios of the halides among themselves, with total nitrogen (N), and with Na+ provided diagnostic methods for graphically distinguishing among sources of Na+ and Cl- in contaminated water. Cl/Br ratios relative to Cl- revealed a clear, although overlapping, separation of sample groups. Samples of landfill leachate and ground water known to be contaminated by leachate were enriched in I- and Br-; this provided an excellent fingerprint for identifying leachate contamination. In addition, total N, when plotted against Cl/Br ratios, successfully separated water contaminated by road salt from water contaminated by other sources. Copyright ?? 2005 National Ground Water Association.
Additional publication details
Characterization and identification of Na-Cl sources in ground water