The relation of geogenic contaminants to groundwater age, aquifer hydrologic position, water type, and redox conditions in Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain aquifers, eastern and south-central USA

Science of the Total Environment
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Abstract

Groundwater age distributions developed from carbon-14 (14C), tritium (3H), and helium-4 (4He) concentrations, along with aquifer hydrologic position, water type, and redox conditions, were compared to geogenic contaminants of concern (GCOC) from 252 public-supply wells in six Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain unconsolidated-sediment aquifers. Concentrations of one or more GCOCs in 168 (67%) wells exceeded MCLs (maximum contaminant levels), SMCLs (secondary MCLs), or HBSLs (health-based screening levels). Human-health benchmark thresholds (MCLs or HBSLs) were exceeded in 31 (12%) wells, and included 0.8% for fluoride (F), 2.4% for arsenic (As), 4% for lead-210 (210Pb), and 4.8% for polonium-210 (210Po). Values of pH increase with age and were outside the SMCL in 31% of wells (23% < 6.5 and 7.5% > 8.5, SMCL). Among GCOCs with concentrations that increased significantly with groundwater age, the frequency of sentry threshold exceedances (i.e., one-half of MCL, SMCL, or HBSL) included 40% for dissolved solids (DS), 12% for chloride (Cl), 3.6% for F, 4.4% for As, and 9.1% for 210Po. Iron (Fe) concentrations did not correlate with groundwater age but exceeded sentry thresholds in 29% of wells. Groundwater age, water types, redox, pH, and GCOCs varied because of unique hydrogeologic features of the aquifers (recharge locations and geometry). As expected, primarily confined aquifers had young, oxic, low to near-neutral pH water near the outcrop (recharge area), and older, reduced, high pH water deeper and farther along flow paths. However, unique aquifer hydrogeologic conditions, such as multiple-recharge zones produced anomalous patterns of young and old groundwater at varying depths and locations along flow paths. Evidence for this variability is seen in disequilibrium patterns in the progression of the chemical evolution of groundwater with hydrologic position. When hydrogeologic differences are considered, groundwater age combined with hydrologic-position data, can provide a strong basis for inferring potential occurrence of GCOCs.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The relation of geogenic contaminants to groundwater age, aquifer hydrologic position, water type, and redox conditions in Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain aquifers, eastern and south-central USA
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.137835
Volume 723
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) WMA - Earth System Processes Division
Description 137835, 15 p.
Country United States
Other Geospatial Gulf Coastal Plain aquifers
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