Arsenic, geology, spatial analysis, groundwater, iron, manganese
Globally numerous regions have been identified with elevated arsenic within groundwater which can result in potential adverse health risks. In Ireland, a previous national-scale research assessment of groundwater identified isolated clusters of elevated arsenic and indicated that lithology was a major controlling factor on arsenic in groundwater. Complementary comparisons of national-scale and regional-scale groundwater assessments of arsenic are lacking in Europe when compared to other global regions. The aims of this study were to demonstrate the value of a regional-scale groundwater hydrochemistry dataset with an existing national-scale approach, describe anomalies that can become the focus of attention for public health and economic reasons, and to provide a wider context for arsenic in groundwater within Ireland and Europe. Regional-scale data using 470 locations comprising 1,493 analyses using several hydrochemical parameters (arsenic, pH, conductivity, iron, manganese, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and total hardness) in south west Ireland were integrated with geological, hydrogeological, and land use datasets. Statistical analysis was performed using a combination of methods including score tests of geological groups using an empirical cumulative distribution function plot in addition to spatial analysis. Results revealed that hydrochemical parameters exhibited different spatial clusters, which was generally associated with lithology. Arsenic was elevated in sandstone derived bedrock. Weak correlation of arsenic with other hydrochemical parameters were observed and redox-sensitive elements like manganese and iron showed a greater diversity in spatial occurrence. This study has shown that the variation of hydrochemical parameters are controlled by regional geology. Finally, the paper focuses on anomalies identified by concentrations of individual ions or statistical associations in the context of, for example, historical mineral exploration and mining in the area and also discusses whether groundwater chemistry sampling on this scale can assist in future mineral exploration, as well as guiding the future development of high quality public and private water supplies.