Nitrate contamination of coastal groundwater: Sources and transport mechanisms along a volcanic aquifer

Eunhye Kwon, Jonghoon Park, Won Bae Park, Bong Rae Kang, Nam C. Woo

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater is the sole water supply source on Jeju volcanic island in Korea and increasing levels of nitrate contamination have raised serious public concerns. This study was objected to understand the nitrate contamination mechanisms of the coastal groundwater overlain by a low-permeability layer in the western part of the island. The 2-yrs of quarterly groundwater monitoring from Sep. 2016 to Oct. 2018 revealed that NO3-N concentrations of 60.7% of sampled wells exceeded 10 mg/L, and those of 17.8% in the range of 3–10 mg/L, indicating those wells are already contaminated or under influence of potential sources. The spatio-temporal variation of groundwater chemistry and stable isotopic signatures suggested that nitrate originated mainly from chemical fertilizers due to agricultural activities and in part from liquefied manure affected by local livestock industries. Two transport processes appeared to be responsible for the nitrate in the confined coastal aquifer: 1) the direct penetration from the land surface through the wellbore leakage at incompletely grouted wells, and 2) the addition of nitrate-contaminated groundwater from upgradient areas where the confining layer is pinched out. Presently the potential nitrate sources are distributed up to 600 m above mean sea level(amsl), and the isotopic signatures implies that the provenance of coastal groundwater could be upland areas of up to 1280 m amsl. Subsequently, nitrate sources at upland areas could be picked up and carried down to the coastal groundwater under the confined condition of the basaltic aquifer that the regional groundwater recharge occurs. Consequently, groundwater contamination in the coastal aquifer should be considered in the big picture of groundwater system accommodating both regional and local flows.

Original languageEnglish
Article number145204
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2021 May 10

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Jeju Research Institute (JRI) for help in sampling local pumping and monitoring wells. This research was financially supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (Grant: NRF-2019R1F1A106330 7), (Grant: NRF-2017R1A6A1A07015374 ). This paper was published as part of E. Kwon's Ph.D. thesis at Yonsei University, 2020.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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