Arsenic Mobility and Groundwater Extraction in Bangladesh

Science  22 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5598, pp. 1602-1606
DOI: 10.1126/science.1076978

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High levels of arsenic in well water are causing widespread poisoning in Bangladesh. In a typical aquifer in southern Bangladesh, chemical data imply that arsenic mobilization is associated with recent inflow of carbon. High concentrations of radiocarbon-young methane indicate that young carbon has driven recent biogeochemical processes, and irrigation pumping is sufficient to have drawn water to the depth where dissolved arsenic is at a maximum. The results of field injection of molasses, nitrate, and low-arsenic water show that organic carbon or its degradation products may quickly mobilize arsenic, oxidants may lower arsenic concentrations, and sorption of arsenic is limited by saturation of aquifer materials.

  • * Present address: Silent Spring Institute, Newton, MA 02458, USA.

  • Present address: Environmental, Coastal and Ocean Sciences Department, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA 02125, USA.

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