High levels of fluoride contamination in groundwater of the semi-arid alluvial aquifers, Pakistan: evaluating the recharge sources and geochemical identification via stable isotopes and other major elemental data

Abstract

Hydrogeochemical methods were integrated to delineate the geochemical factors controlling fluoride (F-) contamination in groundwater at four sites in the districts of Lahore (Samada) and Kasur (Sari Chimba, Kot Maiga, and Chah Fatehwala) in Panjab province of Pakistan. Hydrochemical data and stoichiometric ratios indicate Na–Cl and Na–HCO3 as the dominant water types with silicate weathering influencing overall hydrogeochemistry of the study area. The groundwater F- concentrations ranged between 0.54 mg/L and 17.5 mg/L, with more than 70% samples having F- concentrations above the World Health Organization (WHO) provisional drinking water guideline (1.5 mg/L). Saturation indices determined that 100% samples were saturated with respect to calcite and 96% samples were undersaturated with respect to fluorite, indicating the influence of calcite precipitation on fluoride enrichment. A positive correlation was observed between fluoride with pH, Na+, and HCO3, confirming that high fluoride concentrations were the result of weathering of silicate minerals and the exchange of OH- on clay surface under the alkaline pH conditions. The isotopic values of δ18O and δ2H in groundwater ranged from 9.14 to − 5.51‰ and 56.57 to − 39.5‰, respectively. The stable isotope data indicated the meteoric origin of groundwater with some evaporative effect, which is partly influencing groundwater quality such as high pH and salinity, as a result facilitating anion exchange (OH- for F-) on clays surface. The research indicates that the groundwater quality of the study area is not recommendable for drinking due to its high total dissolved solids (TDS) and elevated fluoride concentrations.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are thankful to Higher Education Commission (HEC, PAK-US) and TWAS for providing funds necessary for the completion of the project. We are also thankful to Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (PINSTECH) for providing laboratory assistance.

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Younas, A., Mushtaq, N., Khattak, J.A. et al. High levels of fluoride contamination in groundwater of the semi-arid alluvial aquifers, Pakistan: evaluating the recharge sources and geochemical identification via stable isotopes and other major elemental data. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 35728–35741 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-06610-z

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Keywords

  • Fluoride (F-)
  • Geochemistry
  • Saturation indices
  • Stable isotopes
  • Silicate weathering
  • Evaporation