Anthropogenic Impacts on a Bedrock Aquifer at the Village Scale
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This study focuses on assessing groundwater potability in a highly complex and heterogeneous fractured bedrock aquifer having variable overburden cover. Eight monitoring wells were installed in a privately serviced lakeside village, and groundwater was routinely sampled over a 2-year timeframe for concentration analysis of nitrate, fecal indicator bacteria, stable isotopes, and a total of 41 pharmaceutical compounds. While pollutant concentrations remained low throughout the study, the presence of fecal indicator bacteria and pharmaceuticals was noted at least once (but not always consistently) in most sampling intervals. An interpretation based on the integration of chemical, bacterial, and site characterization datasets suggests that: (1) the fracture network is complex and heterogeneous with limited vertical connectivity; (2) existing pathways are sufficient for the quick and widespread migration of surface contaminants to depth; (3) anthropogenic contaminants from both septic systems and agriculture are likely sourced in the surrounding uplands where overburden is thin; and (4) fecal contamination, as observed over the long term, is ubiquitous at the village scale. Groundwater quality is continually changing in this hydrogeologic environment and the determination of potability on the larger scale is not likely to be adequately captured with infrequent domestic well sampling (i.e., voluntary annual sampling by homeowners).
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