Chemical modifications of groundwater contaminated by recharge of treated sewage effluent
Long-term monitoring of the chemical composition of recharge sewage effluent and associated contaminated groundwater from the Dan Region Sewage Reclamation Project shows, after 16 years of recharge operation, the presence of a distinct saline plume (up to 400 mg/l Cl), extending 1600 m downgradient in the Coastal Plain aquifer of Israel. The recorded electrolyte composition of groundwater in the vicinity of the recharge area reflects the variations in the compositions of the sewage effluents, as well as water-rock interactions induced by the recharge of treated sewage effluents. The original sewage composition was modified, particularly during early stages of effluent migration in the unsaturated zone, by cation-exchange and adsorption reactions. Since the soil sorption capacity is finite these reactions caused only limited modifications, and once the system reached a steady state the inorganic composition of the contaminated groundwater became similar to that of the recharge water. Decomposition of organic matter in the unsaturated zone resulted in CO2 generation and dissolution of CaCO3 minerals in the aquifer. It was shown that chemical and/or bio-degradation of organic matter takes place mainly in the unsaturated (vadose) zone. Hence, monitoring the efficiency of the vadose zone to retain contaminants is essential for evaluating the quality of groundwater since it was shown that organic compounds behave almost conservatively once the effluents enter and flow within the saturated zone.
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