Arsenic variability and groundwater age in three water supply wells in southeast New Hampshire

TitleArsenic variability and groundwater age in three water supply wells in southeast New Hampshire
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsLevitt, JP, Degnan, JR, Flanagan, SM, Jurgens, BC
JournalGeoscience Frontiers
Pagination1669 - 1683
Date Published09/2019
ISBN Number1674-9871
KeywordsAge tracers, Arsenic variability, Geochemical time series, Groundwater age modeling

Three wells in New Hampshire were sampled bimonthly over three years to evaluate the temporal variability of arsenic concentrations and groundwater age. All samples had measurable concentrations of arsenic throughout the entire sampling period and concentrations in individual wells had a mean variation of more than 7 μg/L. The time series data from this sampling effort showed that arsenic concentrations ranged from a median of 4 μg/L in a glacial aquifer well (SGW-65) to medians of 19 μg/L and 37 μg/L in wells (SGW-93 and KFW-87) screened in the bedrock aquifer, respectively. These high arsenic concentrations were associated with the consistently high pH (median ≥ 8) and low dissolved oxygen (median <0.1 mg/L) in the bedrock aquifer wells, which is typical of fractured crystalline bedrock aquifers in New Hampshire. Groundwater from the glacial aquifer often has high dissolved oxygen, but in this case was consistently low. The pH also is generally acidic in the glacial aquifer but in this case was slightly alkaline (median = 7.5). Also, sorption sites may be more abundant in glacial aquifer deposits than in fractured bedrock which may contribute to lower arsenic concentrations. Mean groundwater ages were less than 50 years old in all three wells and correlated with conservative tracer concentrations, such as chloride; however, mean age was not directly correlated with arsenic concentrations. Arsenic concentrations at KFW-87 did correlate with water levels, in addition, there was a seasonal pattern, which suggests that either the timing of or multiple sampling efforts may be important to define the full range of arsenic concentrations in domestic bedrock wells. Since geochemically reduced conditions and alkaline pHs are common to both bedrock and glacial aquifer wells in this study, groundwater age correlates less strongly with arsenic concentrations than geochemical conditions. There also is evidence of direct hydraulic connection between the glacial and bedrock aquifers, which can influence arsenic concentrations. Correlations between arsenic concentrations and the age of the old fraction of water in SGW-65 and the age of the young fraction of water in SGW-93 suggest that water in the two aquifers may be mixing or at least some of the deeper, older water captured by the glacial aquifer well may be from a similar source as the shallow young groundwater from the bedrock aquifer. The contrast in arsenic concentrations in the two aquifers may be because of increased adsorption capacity of glacio-fluvial sediments, which can limit contaminants more than fractured rock. In addition, this study illustrates that long residence times are not necessary to achieve more geochemically evolved conditions such as high pH and reduced conditions as is typically found with older water in other regions.