Spatial distribution, temporal variation, and sources of heavy metal pollution in groundwater of a century-old nonferrous metal mining and smelting area in China.
This study first presents the spatial distribution, temporal variation, and sources of heavy metal pollution in groundwater of a nonferrous metal mine area in China. Unconfined groundwater was polluted by Pb, Zn, As, and Cu, in order, while confined karst water in the mines showed pollution in the following sequence: Zn, Cd, Cu, Pb, and As. Pollution by Pb was widespread, while Zn, As, Cu, and Cd were found to be high in the north-central industrial region and to decrease gradually with distance from smelters and tailings. Vertically, more Pb, Zn, Cu, and Cd have accumulated in shallow Quaternary groundwater, while more As have migrated into the deeper fracture groundwater in the local discharge area. Zn, Cd, and Cu concentrations in groundwater along the riverside diminished owing to reduced wastewater drainage since 1977, while samples in the confluence area were found to have increasing contents of Pb, Zn, As, Cu, and Cd since industrialization began in the 1990s. Sources of heavy metals in groundwater were of anthropogenic origin except for Cr. Pb originated primarily from airborne volatile particulates, wastewater, and waste residues and deposited continuously, while Zn, Cd, and Cu were derived from the wastewater of smelters and leakage of tailings, which corresponded to the related soil and surface residue researches. Elevated As values around factories might be the result of chemical reactions. Flow patterns in different hydrogeological units and adsorption capability of from Quaternary sediments restricted their cross-border diffusion.