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College of Arts and Sciences

Aqueous Geochemistry, Watershed Studies and Geochemistry of Solids

earth and environmental sciences

ARSENIC AND OTHER METALS IN GROUNDWATERS AND SOILS OF NEW ENGLAND

Recent worldwide attention to health concerns due to natural arsenic contaminated ground waters creates a need for scientific studies of arsenic sources, mechanisms of mobilization, attenuation and transport. Our project includes a study of elevated arsenic in soils within a zone in Central Massachusetts and the study of geochemical equilibria that could promote arsenic mobilization by a groundwater system. Our focus is on both the natural processes and the anthropogenically induced changes (release of landfill leachates) in the ground water system.

WATER QUALITY STUDIES OF AQUIFERS IN NEW ENGLAND

These studies follow chemical changes of water within the watershed systems from the time of precipitation, as the liquid water interacts with the biosphere, then with the underlying rock system and chemical weathering, changes brought by evapotranspiration and nutrient cycling and discharge into a surface drainage system. Within this context additional hydrochemical changes are caused by a multitude of anthropogenic activities and past and current land use such as waste water discharge, use of fertilizers, and chemical loading from runoffs.

STUDIES OF IMPACT OF DECICING CHEMICALS ON THE HEALTH OF WATERSHEDS

Liberal applications of vast amounts of deicing chemicals on road surfaces during the winter seasons in recent years has caused a progressive deterioration of water quality in aquifers and has a negative impact on vegetation and the ecosystems at large. In cooperation with local health and water municipal offices we monitor and study water quality in a few selected aquifer systems with the objective to assess the present and the future.

ROLE OF REDOX PROCESSES ON WATER QUALITY IN NEW ENGLAND

Changes in oxidation-reduction potential in the subsurface can lead to corresponding changes of water quality in ground water and can further affect the balances in the surface water - ground water coupled systems. Our research includes a study of the impact of landfill leachate plumes on water quality, on aqueous equilibria, and on mobilization of iron and manganese compared to an impact by a decay of organic materials in the wetland environments.

GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS

Geographical Information System provides a unique and a powerful environment for geologic, environmental, and geochemical data development such as geological maps, precipitation maps, and other similar databases. Furthermore, these datasets along with the existing maps and available aerial orthophotography creates an environment for an environmental audit and analysis of watersheds, bedrock lithochemistry, past and present land use, and quality of water. Examples of some of the projects include a study of acidity of waters and their relation to the underlying bedrock, road density and composition of surface runoff, and analysis of nitrogen loading in areas of different household densities.