Atacama perchlorate as an agricultural contaminant in groundwater: Isotopic and chronologic evidence from Long Island, New York

Environmental Science & Technology
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Abstract

Perchlorate (ClO4) is a common groundwater constituent with both synthetic and natural sources. A potentially important source of ClO4 is past agricultural application of ClO4-bearing natural NO3 fertilizer imported from the Atacama Desert, Chile, but evidence for this has been largely circumstantial. Here we report ClO4 stable isotope data (δ37Cl, δ18O, and Δ17O), along with other supporting chemical and isotopic environmental tracer data, to document groundwater ClO4 contamination sources and history in parts of Long Island, New York. Sampled groundwaters were oxic and ClO4 apparently was not affected by biodegradation within the aquifers. Synthetic ClO4 was indicated by the isotopic method in groundwater near a fireworks disposal site at a former missile base. Atacama ClO4 was indicated in agricultural and urbanizing areas in groundwaters with apparent ages >20 years. In an agricultural area, ClO4 concentrations and ClO4/NO3 ratios increased with groundwater age, possibly because of decreasing application rates of Atacama NO3 fertilizers and/or decreasing ClO4 concentrations in Atacama NO3 fertilizers in recent years. Because ClO4/NO3 ratios of Atacama NO3 fertilizers imported in the past (∼2 × 10−3 mol mol−1) were much higher than the ClO4/NO3 ratio of recommended drinking-water limits (7 × 10−5 mol mol−1 in New York), ClO4 could exceed drinking-water limits even where NO3 does not, and where Atacama NO3 was only a minor source of N. Groundwater ClO4 with distinctive isotopic composition was a sensitive indicator of past Atacama NO3 fertilizer use on Long Island and may be common in other areas that received NO3 fertilizers from the late 19th century through the 20th century.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Atacama perchlorate as an agricultural contaminant in groundwater: Isotopic and chronologic evidence from Long Island, New York
Series title Environmental Science & Technology
DOI 10.1021/es9006433
Volume 43
Issue 15
Year Published 2009
Language English
Publisher ACS Publications
Contributing office(s) WMA - Earth System Processes Division
Description 7 p.
First page 5619
Last page 5625
Country United States
State New York
Other Geospatial Long Island
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