High Naturally Occurring Radioactivity in Fossil Groundwater in the Middle East

Journal Article (Academic article)

High levels of naturally occurring and carcinogenic radium isotopes have been measured in low-saline and oxic groundwater from the Rum Group of the Disi sandstone aquifer in Jordan. The combined 228Ra and 226Ra activities are up to 2000% higher than international drinking water standards. Analyses of the host sandstone aquifer rocks show 228Ra and 226Ra activities and ratios that are consistent with previous reports of sandstone rocks from different parts of the world. A compilation of previous data in groundwater from worldwide sandstone aquifers shows large variations in Ra activities regardless of the groundwater salinity. On the basis of the distribution of the four Ra isotopes and the ratios of the short- to long-lived Ra isotopes, we postulate that Ra activity in groundwater is controlled by the balance of radioactive decay of parent Th isotopes on aquifer solids, decay of the dissolved radium isotopes, and adsorption of dissolved Ra on solid surfaces. The availability of surface adsorption sites, which depends on the clay content in the aquifer rocks, is therefore an important constraint for Ra activity in sandstone aquifers. These findings raise concerns about the safety of this and similar nonrenewable groundwater reservoirs, exacerbating the already severe water crisis in the Middle East.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Vengosh, A; Hirschfeld, D; Vinson, DS; Dwyer, GS; Raanan, H; Rimawi, O; Al Zoubi, A; Akkawi, E; Marie, A; Haquin, G; Zaarur, S; Ganor, J

Published Date

  • 2009

Published In

  • Environ Sci & Technol

PubMed ID

  • 19368170