Redox-driven changes in porewater chemistry in the unsaturated zone of the chalk aquifer beneath unlined cattle slurry lagoons

Gooddy, Daren; Clay, J.W.; Bottrell, S.H.. 2002 Redox-driven changes in porewater chemistry in the unsaturated zone of the chalk aquifer beneath unlined cattle slurry lagoons. Applied Geochemistry, 17 (7). 903-921.

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Farm waste stores such as cattle slurry lagoons are widespread in the UK and many overly important aquifers. Stores can be serious risks to water quality because they are important sources of N species, organic C and pathogenic microbes. At two sites on the Chalk aquifer of southern England, inclined boreholes were drilled and cored to obtain aquifer material from directly beneath unlined slurry stores. Vertical boreholes were also drilled adjacent to the slurry stores to determine any lateral movement of contaminants. Interstitial porewaters were analysed for major and minor ions and S isotopes. At the second site, unsaturated zone gases were sampled from the inclined hole. Infiltration of slurry into the unsaturated zone caused significantly elevated concentrations of metals such as Cu and Ni at both sites. Sulphate reduction was occurring at Site 1, as evidenced by SO4 concentrations decreasing from 150 to 50 mg/l and enhanced ratios of delta(34)S-SO4 and delta(18)O-SO4. Ammomum-N also leaches along with dissolved organic C which were found 17 m below ground surface at concentrations up to 400 and 260 mg/l, respectively. Contaminant concentrations were similar in the porewaters from both the inclined and vertical boreholes. At Site 2, higher contaminant concentrations were found in the inclined borehole compared with the vertical borehole. Organic C concentrations were considerably lower than at Site 1, ranging from 10 to 70 mg/l. Ammonium-N concentrations reached a maximum concentration of 25 mg/l. however NO3-N concentrations were up to 500 mg/l and SO4 concentrations were generally higher than Site 1. Data for N-2/Ar and delta(15)N-N-2 from the gas samplers show a peak of 102 and 2.2parts per thousand, respectively. at 14 m below ground level indicating denitrification was taking place. Evidence from delta(34)S- SO4 and delta(18)O-SO4 suggest that some SO4 reduction was taking place simultaneously. From CH4 and NH3 detected at depth it is suggested that slurry contamination. emanating from early use of the store, has passed through the top 18 m of the unsaturated zone at Site 2. The presence of high concentrations of NO3 and lower concentrations of organic C suggests that this lagoon has formed a relatively impermeable seal at its base within the first few years of its lifetime. The anoxic conditions at both sites may have mobilised U from N-P-K fertilisers. Both sites are continuing to impact on the porewater chemistry and pose a risk of groundwater contamination.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes > Groundwater Management
ISSN: 0883-2927
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Point source pollution, Major aquifer
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Related URLs:
Date made live: 23 Jul 2009 10:02 +0 (UTC)

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