ENVIROMENTAL SCIENCE

Fertilizing water contamination

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Science  18 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6254, pp. 1297-1298
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6254.1297-g

Excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus can negatively affect aquatic ecosystems. Nutrient-rich fertilizer runoff stimulates productivity, which can lead to harmful algal blooms or fish kills. Nolan and Weber show that such pollution has another wide-ranging consequence: increasing the mobility of uranium in groundwater. Geochemical data for two major aquifers in the United States, which in combination provide drinking water to millions and irrigation for one-sixth of U.S. agriculture, show that increased nitrate levels correlate strongly with the presence of uranium. Nitrate can oxidatively dissolve naturally occurring uranium minerals, which in turn can lead to potentially harmful levels of soluble uranium in groundwater, especially in shallow aquifers.

Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 10.1021/acs.estlett.5b00174(2015).

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