Quantification of Shallow Groundwater Nutrient Dynamics in Septic Areas
Of all groundwater pollution sources, septic systems are the second largest source of groundwater nitrate contamination in USA. This study investigated shallow groundwater (SGW) nutrient dynamics in septic areas at the northern part of the Lower St. Johns River Basin, Florida, USA. Thirty-five SGW-monitoring wells, located at nine different urban areas served by septic systems, were used to collect the SGW samples seasonally and/or biweekly for a duration of 3 years from 2003 to 2006. Analytical results showed that there were 16 wells with nitrate concentrations exceeding the US Environmental Protection Agency's drinking water limit (10 mg L-1). There also were 11 and 14 wells with total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) and total phosphorus (TP) concentrations, respectively, exceeding the ambient water quality criteria (0.9 mg L-1 for TKN and 0.04 mg L-1 for TP) recommended for rivers and streams in nutrient Ecoregion XII (Southeast USA). In general, site variations are much greater than seasonal variations in SGW nutrient concentrations. A negative correlation existed between nitrate/nitrite–nitrogen (NOx–N) and TKN as well as between NOx–N and ammonium (NH4+), whereas a positive correlation occurred between TKN and NH4+. Furthermore, a positive correlation was found between reduction and oxidation (redox) potential and water level, while no correlation was observed between potassium concentration and redox potential. This study demonstrates a need to investigate the potential adverse impacts of SGW nutrients from the septic areas upon the deeper groundwater quality due to the nutrient penetration and upon the surface water quality due to the nutrient discharge.