Journal of the Geological Society of India

, Volume 79, Issue 3, pp 302–314 | Cite as

Arsenic exposure through groundwater in the middle Ganga plain in the Varanasi environs, India: A future threat

Article

Abstract

The study area covers an about 100 km2 of the middle Ganga plain in Uttar Pradesh, experiencing intensive groundwater extraction. In order to recognize the arsenic contamination zones of the Varanasi environs, sixty eight groundwater samples have been collected and analyzed for major ions, iron and arsenic. Twenty one sediment samples in the four boreholes were also collected to deduce the source of arsenic in the groundwater. The preliminary survey reports for the first time indicates that part of rural and urban population of Varanasi environs are drinking and using for irrigation arsenic contaminated water mostly from hand tube wells (<70 m). The study area is a part of middle Ganga plain which comprises of Quaternary alluvium consists of an alternating succession of clay, clayey silt and sand deposits. The high arsenic content in groundwater samples of the study area indicates that 14% of the samples are exceeding the 10 μg/l and 5% of the samples are exceeding 50 μg/l. The high arsenic concentration is found in the villages such as Bahadurpur, Madhiya, Bhojpur, Ratanpur, Semra, Jalilpur, Kateswar, Bhakhara and Kodupur (eastern side of Ganga River in Varanasi), situated within the newer alluvium deposited during middle Holocene to Recent. The older alluvial aquifers situated in the western side of the Ganga River are arsenic safe (maximum As concentration of 9 μg/l) though the borehole sediments shows high arsenic (mean 5.2 mg/kg) and iron content (529 mg/kg) in shallow and medium depths. This may be due to lack of reducing conditions (i.e organic content) for releasing arsenic into the groundwater. Rainfall infiltration, organic matter from recently accumulated biomass from flood prone belt in the newer alluvium plays a critical role in releasing arsenic and iron present in sediments. The main mechanism for the release of As into groundwater in the Holocene sandy aquifer sediments of Varanasi environs may be due to the reductive dissolution of Fe oxyhydroxide present as coatings on sand grains as well as altered mica content. The high societal problems of this study will help to mitigate the severity of arsenic contamination by providing alternate drinking water resources to the people in middle Ganga plain and to arrange permanent arsenic safe drinking water source by the authorities.

Keywords

Groundwater quality Arsenic contamination Newer alluvium Middle Ganga plain Varanasi Environs 

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© Geological Society of India 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesJawaharlal Nehru UniversityNew DelhiIndia

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