State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2007ND146B
Title: Analysis of Associated Bedrock-Aquifer System Sediments:Origins of Electron Donor-Rich Aquifers in Eastern North Dakota
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2007
End Date: 2/29/2008
Congressional District: 1
Focus Categories: Water Quality, Groundwater, Nitrate Contamination
Keywords: Denitrification, Electron Donors, Natural attenuation, Nitrate vulnerability index
Principal Investigator: Korom, Scott F
Federal Funds: $ 9,600
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 19,200
Abstract: Nitrate pollution has long been recognized as the most prevalent form of groundwater pollution. The only effective process to remediate nitrate contaminants is denitrification, typically through natural attenuation. This process reduces nitrate (NO3-) to harmless nitrogen gas. The process occurs naturally, requiring only an oxygen-limited environment, the presence of nitrogen digesting bacteria, and the availability of electron donors. The three most common electron donors are organic carbon, sulfide (typically as pyrite, FeS2), and ferrous iron minerals. Research has also shown that the controlling factor in this reaction has typically been the availability of suitable electron donors within the aquifer sediments. The objective of this research is to establish a link between the denitrification capacity of North Dakota aquifers with the electron donor composition of the surrounding bedrock, including pyrite, organic carbon, and ferrous iron. Once this relationship is more clearly defined, a qualitative index (low, medium, and high) of aquifer denitrification capacity may be developed, based on the probable source of parent material. This index could then be used to focus, in a cost-effective fashion, more extensive and expensive geochemical analysis on specific aquifers or zones in specific aquifers.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

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