Acid groundwater in an anoxic aquifer: Reactive transport modelling of buffering processes

Gudrun Franken, Dieke Postma, Wilhelmus H.M. Duijnisveld, Jürgen Böttcher, John Molson

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The acidification of groundwater, due to acid rain, was investigated in a Quaternary sandy aquifer in the Fuhrberger Feld, near Hannover, Germany. The groundwater, recharged through an area covered by a coniferous forest, had a pH in the range 4-5 down to a depth of 5 m. The evolution in groundwater chemistry along the flow path was investigated in a transect of multisamplers. A 2D groundwater flow model was established delineating the groundwater flow field and a groundwater flow velocity of around 80 m/a along the flow path was derived. Speciation calculations showed the groundwater to be close to equilibrium with the mineral jurbanite (AlOHSO 4) over the pH range 4.0-6.5. This suggests an accumulation of acid rain derived SO 4 2 - in the aquifer sediment during the decades with high atmospheric S deposition. The groundwater has a pH of around 4.5 in the upstream part of the flow path increasing to near 6 further downstream. 1D reactive transport modelling, using PHREEQC, was used to analyze different combinations of buffering processes. The first model contains ion exchange in combination with jurbanite dissolution. At the ion exchange front Al 3+ is adsorbed leading to the dissolution of jurbanite and an increase in pH. Comparison with field data showed that the simulated increases in pH and alkalinity are much lower than observed in the field. The second model includes organic matter degradation. In addition to ion exchange and jurbanite dissolution, the model included the reduction of SO 4 2 - and Fe-oxides as well as the precipitation of Fe sulfide. This model matches the field data well and illustrates the importance of redox processes for pH buffering in the Fuhrberg aquifer. The current progress of the acidification front is about 4 m/a. This corresponds to an average value of 150 a of acid input, which covers large historical variations. Remediation is expected to take the same time span because it requires desorption and neutralization of adsorbed Al 3+ from the aquifer sediment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-899
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2009

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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