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Redox zonation and organic matter oxidation in palaeogroundwater of glacial origin from the Baltic Artesian Basin

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Pärn Joonas, Affolter Stéphane, Ivask Jüri, Johnson Sean, Kirsimäe Kalle, Leuenberger Markus, Martma Tõnu, Raidla Valle, Schloemer Stefan, Sepp Holar,
Project Klima- und Umweltphysik: Isotope im Erdklimasystem (icoCEP)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Chemical geology
Volume (Issue) 488
Page(s) 149 - 161
Title of proceedings Chemical geology
DOI 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2018.04.027


Ordovician-Cambrian aquifer system (O-Cm) in the northern part of the Baltic Artesian Basin (BAB), Estonia, is part of a unique groundwater reservoir where groundwater originating from glacial meltwater recharge from the Scandinavian Ice Sheet is preserved. The distribution of redox zones in the anoxic O-Cm aquifer system is unusual. Strongly reducing conditions are found near the modern recharge area characterized by low concentrations of sulphate (<5 mg·L−1) and the presence of CH4 (up to 3.26 vol%). The concentrations of SO42− increase and concentrations of CH4 decrease farther down the groundwater flow path. Sulphate in fresh glacial palaeogroundwater originates probably from pyrite oxidation while brackish waters have gained their sulphate through mixing with relict saline formation waters residing in the deeper parts of the aquifer system. Stable isotopic composition of sulphate, especially relations between δ18OSO4-δ18Owater (∆18OSO4-H2O from +20.5 to +31.1‰) and δ34SSO4-δ34SH2S (∆34SSO4-H2S value of +47.9‰) support a widespread occurrence of bacterial sulphate reduction in fresh glacial palaeogroundwater. We propose, that the observed unusual redox zonation is a manifestation of two different flow systems in the O-Cm aquifer system: 1) the topographically driven flow system which drives the infiltration of waters through the overlying carbonate formation in the modern recharge area; 2) the relict flow system farther down the groundwater flow path which developed as a response to large hydraulic gradients imposed by the Scandinavian Ice Sheet in Pleistocene. Thus, the strongly reducing conditions surrounding the modern recharge area may show the extent to which post-glacial recharge has influenced the aquifer system. O-Cm aquifer system is an example of an aquifer that has not reached a near-equilibrium state with respect to present day flow conditions and still exhibits hydrogeochemical patterns established under the influence of a continental ice sheet in Pleistocene.