River bank geomorphology controls groundwater arsenic concentrations in aquifers adjacent to the Red River, Hanoi Vietnam

Mason O. Stahl, Charles F. Harvey, Alexander van Geen, Jing Sun, Pham Thi Kim Trang, Vi Mai Lan, Thao Mai Phuong, Pham Hung Viet, Benjamin C. Bostick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Many aquifers that are highly contaminated by arsenic in South and Southeast Asia are in the floodplains of large river networks. Under natural conditions, these aquifers would discharge into nearby rivers; however, large-scale groundwater pumping has reversed the flow in some areas so that rivers now recharge aquifers. At a field site near Hanoi Vietnam, we find river water recharging the aquifer becomes high in arsenic, reaching concentrations above 1000 µg/L, within the upper meter of recently (< ∼10 years) deposited riverbed sediments as it is drawn into a heavily pumped aquifer along the Red River. Groundwater arsenic concentrations in aquifers adjacent to the river are largely controlled by river geomorphology. High (>50 µg/L) aqueous arsenic concentrations are found in aquifer regions adjacent to zones where the river has recently deposited sediment and low arsenic concentrations are found in aquifer regions adjacent to erosional zones. High arsenic concentrations are even found adjacent to a depositional river reach in a Pleistocene aquifer, a type of aquifer sediment which generally hosts low arsenic water. Using geochemical and isotopic data, we estimate the in situ rate of arsenic release from riverbed sediments to be up to 1000 times the rates calculated on inland aquifer sediments in Vietnam. Geochemical data for riverbed porewater conditions indicate that the reduction of reactive, poorly crystalline iron oxides controls arsenic release. We suggest that aquifers in these regions may be susceptible to further arsenic contamination where riverine recharge drawn into aquifers by extensive groundwater pumping flows through recently deposited river sediments before entering the aquifer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6321-6334
Number of pages14
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume52
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

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