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Spatial distribution of arsenic in groundwater in parts of middle Ganga Plain of Saran and Vaishali districts, Bihar; a subsurface lithologic control


Spatial distribution of arsenic in groundwater in parts of middle Ganga Plain of Saran and Vaishali districts, Bihar; a subsurface lithologic control



Indian Journal of Geosciences 64.1-4



High concentration of arsenic in groundwater, affecting the districts lying on either side of the Ganga River in Bihar, is a serious environmental problem. The arsenic-contaminated zone is confined to the narrow oscillation zone of the river consisting of meander belts, oxbow lakes, abandoned channel etc., where the Quaternary sediments are deposited. The population in this zone, consuming groundwater, is most vulnerable to this toxic element. Analyses of groundwater sampled from 1100 tubewells, in parts of Saran and Vaishali districts, show that 49% of the samples are safe with 50 to <750 ppb arsenic. Five zones of high arsenic concentration are grouped in the study area. Both Holocene (Present Day and Older Flood Plain) and Pleistocene (Older Alluvium) deposits are exposed in the study area. The Holocene sediments are represented by unoxidised sand and silt sandwiched between clay layers, while the Pleistocene sediments are oxidised sand and silt confined within thick clay layers. The high-arsenic zone is restricted to the Holocene aquifers only, while the groundwater tapped from aquifers in Pleistocene sediments is free from arsenic. Thus, the vertical and lateral extent of Holocene sediments control spatial the distribution of arsenic in groundwater. Based on correlation of subsurface geology between the north and south banks of the Ganga River, presence of arsenic-free aquifer 70 to 80 metres below ground level is established.

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