Stratigraphic Evolution of the Ganges-Brahmaputra Lower Delta Plain and its Relation to Groundwater Arsenic Distributions

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Meagan Grace Patrick1, Steven Lee Goodbred Jr2, Jonathan M Gilligan1, Christopher M Tasich1, Saddam Hossain3 and Kazi Matin Ahmed4, (1)Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, United States, (2)Vanderbilt-Earth & Envir Scies, Nashville, TN, United States, (3)University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh, (4)Dhaka University, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Bangladesh is plagued by high concentrations of naturally occurring arsenic (As) in the shallow groundwater of the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta (GBMD), leading to widespread poisoning of people in the region. Most of the 156 million people in Bangladesh obtain their drinking water through hand-pumped tube wells that often draw arsenic-contaminated water from shallow, Holocene-age aquifers of the delta. The distribution of arsenic within these aquifers is heterogeneous and linked with the complex stratigraphy of the GBMD through its controls on hydrogeology and aquifer biogeochemistry. This research investigates differences in the fluvio-deltaic deposits formed by the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, as well as differences in the tectonic setting across the lower delta plain. Furthermore, we investigate how these overarching controls influence stratigraphic architecture and the resulting aquifer systems, and ultimately the distribution of As within the shallow aquifers of the lower delta plain. To accomplish this, a transect of 55 sediment cores spanning the entire lower delta plain of Bangladesh was drilled to a depth of 90 m. In addition to knowledge of the stratigraphic architecture gained from borehole lithologs, samples from these cores were analyzed for provenance and grain size to determine source of the sediments and the depositional history of the rivers. Relating delta stratigraphy to As distribution was accomplished by measuring groundwater As in 10-20 tubewells within a 1 km radius of each borehole. This data was combined with groundwater data from the Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project within 25 km of the transect. Statistical analysis of the groundwater data was then conducted using hierarchical regressions as well as a nearest neighbor algorithm. This study provides a better understanding of Holocene delta evolution and river behavior, as well as a more complete understanding of the geologic controls on As and the characteristics of contaminant distribution in fluvial settings as they relate to stratigraphic features.