Carbon and methane cycling in arsenic-contaminated aquifers

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Geogenic arsenic (As) contamination of groundwater is a health threat to millions of people worldwide, particularly in alluvial regions of South and Southeast Asia. Mitigation measures are often hindered by high heterogeneities in As concentrations, the cause(s) of which are elusive. Here we used a comprehensive suite of stable isotope analyses and hydrogeochemical parameters to shed light on the mechanisms in a typical high-As Holocene aquifer near Hanoi where groundwater is advected to a low-As Pleistocene aquifer. Carbon isotope signatures (δ13C-CH4, δ13C-DOC, δ13C-DIC) provided evidence that fermentation, methanogenesis and methanotrophy are actively contributing to the As heterogeneity. Methanogenesis occurred concurrently where As levels are high (>200 µg/L) and DOC-enriched aquitard pore water infiltrates into the aquifer. Along the flowpath to the Holocene/Pleistocene aquifer transition, methane oxidation causes a strong shift in δ13C-CH4 from -87‰ to +47‰, indicating high reactivity. These findings demonstrate a previously overlooked role of methane cycling and DOC infiltration in high-As aquifers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117300
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2021


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