|The Red River and its surrounding aquifer is a source of organic carbon that encourages release of arsenic into groundwater further inland. (Credit: Benjamin Bostick/LDEO)|
Now, scientists working in Vietnam have shown that massive pumping of groundwater from a clean aquifer is slowly but surely drawing the poison into the water. The study, done near the capital city of Hanoi, confirms suspicions that booming water usage there and elsewhere could eventually threaten millions more people.
Arsenic is moving." The good news, he said: "It is not moving as fast as we had feared it might." This will buy time -- perhaps decades--for water managers to try and deal with the problem, he said.
Arsenic is found in rocks across the world, but it seems to pollute groundwater only under specific conditions. The huge scale across south Asia came clear only in the 1990s, when researchers from universities, nonprofit agencies and governments started testing wells systematically. Van Geen has been working in the field for 13 years, and is leading a new collaborative effort in the region under the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program.