Groundwater Quality, Geochemical Processes and Groundwater Evolution in the Chateauguay River Watershed, Quebec, Canada

Blanchette, Daniel; Lefebvre, Ren�; Nastev, Miroslav; Cloutier, Vincent
December 2010
Canadian Water Resources Journal/Revue Canadienne des Ressources;Winter2010, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p503
Academic Journal
A hydrogeochemical study was carried out in the Quebec portion of the Chateauguay River watershed. The objective was to characterize the chemical composition of groundwater in order to evaluate its quality and assess geochemical variations related to the geological and hydrogeological settings. Bulk groundwater samples were collected from 144 wells distributed evenly over the study area. Nine of the wells were sampled with a multi-level packer system, for a total of 22 multi-level samples. Samples were analysed for a comprehensive set of chemical inorganic parameters: dissolved major, minor and trace constituents, bacterial content, and stable (d2H, d13C, d18O) and radioactive (3H, 14C) isotopes. Major dissolved constituents Ca, Mg, Na, K, Cl, SO4 and HCO3 ions represent more than 92% of total dissolved solids and their concentrations seem controlled by both hydrogeological and geological factors. Most water quality problems are related to aesthetic standards for potable water use (hardness, total dissolved solids (TDS), Fe and Mn concentrations) and TDS and Cl for irrigation use. Analyses of tritium (3H) and 14C confirm the inferred recharge zones and indicate the presence of variable water ages. Groundwater shows a wide range of compositions as indicated by 12 water types defined on the basis of major ions with a weak variation of chemical composition with depth. The predominant water type, Ca-HCO3, occurs in most geological and hydrogeological settings. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and geochemical graphs were used to identify the major processes that exert a control over the chemical composition of the groundwater. Approximately 80% of the geochemical variation can be explained by mixing between fresh recharge water with more saline water associated with the former Champlain Sea, which invaded the aquifer. Secondary processes are related to ion exchange and the potential dissolution of minerals. A cross-section along a major flow path shows that the geochemical evolution of groundwater leads to relations between water type groups, geochemical processes, and groundwater flow conditions. The hydrogeochemical conceptual model infers that carbonate dissolution during recharge leads to one end-member, a Ca-HCO3 type water, which further evolves along its flow path due through ion exchange and mixing with remnant Champlain Sea water (Na-Cl), the other end- member.


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