Department Water Resources and Drinking Water

Groundwater Pollution Red River Delta/Vietnam

Việt

Inorganic arsenic and manganese are the most widespread elemental contaminants of potable water around the world. Being mainly of natural (geogenic) origin, arsenic and manganese are released from sediments in the subsurface as a result of unfavorable geochemical conditions and can occur in groundwater at concentrations of more than 1000 micrograms per liter of water. The safety limits for arsenic in drinking water in most countries are 10 or 50 and, for manganese 400 micrograms per liter (µg/liter).

Arsenic leads to chronic poisoning if ingested regularly in small doses and is an acute problem in Vietnam and many regions of Southern Asia (i.e., Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sumatra (Indonesia). It is also found in drinking waters of other countries, such as Argentina, China, Croatia, Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, Romania and the United States. Manifestations of chronic arsenic poisoning are severe health problems, such as skin lesions, hyperkeratosis, melanosis, skin cancer and cancer of internal organs. Manganese is particularly harmful for newborns and children as it hampers the intellectual development of the child.

The Red River delta in Vietnam is one of the most densely populated regions in the world. In 1998 the arsenic problem in Vietnam was identified in the capital city of Hanoi and surrounding rural districts and has since been recognized in other locations of the Red River delta [see Berg et al. 2001 and Winkel et al. 2011]. To identify safe and unsafe areas over the entire Red River delta, a large-scale hydrogeochemical groundwater survey was launched in 2005. It included the analysis of arsenic, manganese, selenium, boron, iron, salinity, phosphate, ammonium, sulfate, dissolved organic carbon, and 30 further chemical parameters. Concentration maps and arsenic risk modeling suggest that several million inhabitants of the Red River delta are at risk of chronic arsenic and/or manganese poisoning.

The data, maps and figures presented here to the public are accompanying the comprehensive groundwater analysis and risk modeling (2D and 3D) of the Red River delta published in PNAS (P. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA).

Arsenic pollution of groundwater in Vietnam exacerbated by deep aquifer exploitation for more than a century. PNAS, 108, January 2011.

Lenny Winkel, Pham Thi Kim Trang, Vi Mai Lan, Caroline Stengel, Manouchehr Amini, Nguyen Thi Ha, Pham Hung Viet, Michael Berg*. [...]

This paper is freely available online through the PNAS open access option.

Geogenic Groundwater Pollution

Arsenic-tainted groundwater resources are a major health threat to 50–100 millions of people mainly in Asia. Arsenic originates from sediments in aquifers from where it is released to the groundwater via geochemical mechanisms. Other elements that can be found as geogenic contaminants in groundwater include manganese, fluoride, selenium, chromium and uranium. These elements have in common that they are toxic to humans at specific concentrations. However, arsenic is the most toxic one. Te consumption of groundwater containing this deadly element in high amounts has resulted in serious human health hazards around the globe but especially in Southeast Asia. The World Health Organization recommends a guideline value of 10 µg/liter for arsenic in drinking water. Chronic arsenic poisoning leads to an accumulation of the element in the skin, hair, and nails, resulting in symptoms such as strong pigmentation of the skin, mainly at hands and feet, high blood pressure, and neurological dysfunctions. Beside these effects, long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water has been found related to increased risks of cancer in the skin, lungs, bladder and kidney.

Further information on arsenic pollution of groundwater can be found through the following links:

Hydrochemical survey

The data of the extensive groundwater survey in the Red River (Vietnam) is presented as a hydrochemical atlas comprising 42 different chemical parameters. We found that 65% of all studied wells exceed the WHO guideline values for arsenic, manganese, barium, selenium or a combination of these elements. Correspondingly, geogenic groundwater pollution in the Red River delta poses a serious long-term health threat to about 7 million people. This is particularly worrying since groundwater is the main source of drinking water.

Quality assurance and quality control of chemical analyses

Hydrochemical Atlas

Topography
Sampling Dates
Sample locations
Depths of wells
Arsenic (<0.5 to >50 µg/L)
Arsenic (<5 to >200 µg/L)
Alkalinity
Aluminium
Ammonium
Barium
Boron
Bromine
Cadmium
Calcium
Chloride
Chromium
Cobalt
Copper
Dissolved organic carbon
Dissolved oxygen
Electrical conductivity
Iron
Lead
Magnesium
Manganese
Mercury
Nickel
Nitrate
pH
Phosphate
Potassium
Redox potential
Silicon
Selenium
Sodium
Sulphate
Uranium
Zinc

Geology

Geological map of the Red River delta
Location of geological cross-sections
Geological cross-sections [pdf]
Aquifers at depth [pdf]

Risk modeling

In a previous study we developed a model using existing 2D surface data (geology and soil properties) for Southeast Asia, which allows areas that are vulnerable to arsenic groundwater contamination to be pinpointed. In the present study we go one step further and create a regional arsenic prediction model for the Red River delta based on a new set of 3D-geological data used as independent variables in the model. This is the first time that a 3D model could be created to pinpoint arsenic contamination of groundwater. Measured arsenic concentrations obtained in the hydrogeochemical study are used as dependent variables in the model.

For details see Winkel et al., PNAS, 108, January 2011 [...]


2D risk map (whole delta)
Arsenic risk map based on surface parameters

Probabilities obtained from the prediction model based on land-surface geology and soil data.

For details see Winkel et al., PNAS, 108, January 2011 [...]


3D risk map (whole delta)

Based on the modeling results, we constructed maps of average probability (for 0-50 m and for 10 m depth intervals). The maps indicate if and where arsenic concentration in the groundwater below or above the WHO guideline value (10 µg/L) can be expected. These maps can be a useful resource for mitigation of arsenic since they indicate where and at which depths tube wells can be expected to produce low arsenic groundwater. We could also use these probability maps in combination with measured As concentrations, to indicate vertically migrated arsenic from shallower Holocene aquifers into naturally uncontaminated Pleistocene aquifers.

For details see Winkel et al., PNAS, 108, January 2011 [...]

Arsenic risk map based on 3D geology
Arsenic risk maps at depth [pdf]
Stacked 3D distribution of arsenic risk [pdf]
Probability of arsenic contamination (0 to -90m) [pdf]

Deep aquifers

As concentrations in Pleistocene aquifers of the Red River Delta at depths >50 m. Highest As concentrations (up to 330 μgL−1) in the Pleistocene aquifer are found in the same area where high As concentrations are present in shallower, Holocene aquifers. The interpolated As concentration map was obtained by ordinary kriging. Contour lines of piezometric heads (recorded in Dec. 2006) depict the pronounced drawdown of Pleistocene groundwater levels (down to −34 m), caused by extensive groundwater pumping by the Hanoi Water Works.

For details see Winkel et al., PNAS, 108, January 2011 [...]

Arsenic risk map based on 3D geology

Data

The data, maps and figures presented here to the public are accompanying the comprehensive groundwater analysis and risk modeling (2D and 3D) of the Red River delta published in PNAS 108, January 2011.

  • see: Hydrogeochemical survey

About us

Working group of the research article

"Arsenic pollution of groundwater in Vietnam exacerbated by deep aquifer exploitation for more than a century"

published in PNAS 108, January 2011.


EAWAG

Dr. Michael BergHead of DepartmentTel. +41 58 765 5078Send Mail
Caroline StengelTel. +41 58 765 5265Send Mail

Pham Thi Kim Trang
Vice-Director

Research Centre for Environmental Technology and Sustainable Development (CETASD), Hanoi University of Science (HUS), Vietnam National University.

334 Nguyen Trai Street, Thanh Xuan, Hanoi, Vietnam

Vi Thi Mai Lan

Research Centre for Environmental Technology and Sustainable Development (CETASD), Hanoi University of Science (HUS), Vietnam National University.

334 Nguyen Trai Street, Thanh Xuan, Hanoi, Vietnam

Pham Hung Viet
Director

Research Centre for Environmental Technology and Sustainable Development (CETASD), Hanoi University of Science (HUS), Vietnam National University.

334 Nguyen Trai Street, Thanh Xuan, Hanoi, Vietnam

Nguyen Thi Ha
Vice-Director

Centre for Water Resources Monitoring and Forecast (CWRMF)

10/42 Tran Cung Street, Nghia Tan, Cau Giay, Hanoi, Vietnam


This study was substantially funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
within the capacity building project “Environmental Science and Technology in Northern Vietnam.”

Publications

Vietnam groundwater As contamination

Winkel, L. H. E.; Trang, P. T. K.; Lan, V. M.; Stengel, C.; Amini, M.; Ha, N. T.; Viet, P. H.; Berg, M. (2011) Arsenic pollution of groundwater in Vietnam exacerbated by deep aquifer exploitation for more than a century, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS, 108(4), 1246-1251, doi:10.1073/pnas.1011915108, Institutional Repository
Berg, M.; Stengel, C.; Trang, P. T. K.; Hung Viet, P.; Sampson, M. L.; Leng, M.; Samreth, S.; Fredericks, D. (2007) Magnitude of arsenic pollution in the Mekong and Red River Deltas — Cambodia and Vietnam, Science of the Total Environment, 372(2–3), 413-425, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2006.09.010, Institutional Repository
Buschmann, J.; Berg, M.; Stengel, C.; Winkel, L.; Sampson, M. L.; Trang, P. T. K.; Hung Viet, P. (2008) Contamination of drinking water resources in the Mekong delta floodplains: arsenic and other trace metals pose serious health risks to population, Environment International, 34(6), 756-764, doi:10.1016/j.envint.2007.12.025, Institutional Repository
Berg, M.; Trang, P. T. K.; Stengel, C.; Buschmann, J.; Hung Viet, P.; Van Dan, N.; Giger, W.; Stüben, D. (2008) Hydrological and sedimentary controls leading to arsenic contamination of groundwater in the Hanoi area, Vietnam: the impact of iron-arsenic ratios, peat, river bank deposits, and excessive groundwater abstraction, Chemical Geology, 249(1–2), 91-112, doi:10.1016/j.chemgeo.2007.12.007, Institutional Repository
Winkel, L.; Berg, M.; Amini, M.; Hug, S. J.; Johnson, C. A. (2008) Predicting groundwater arsenic contamination in Southeast Asia from surface parameters, Nature Geoscience, 1, 536-542, doi:10.1038/ngeo254, Institutional Repository
Berg, M.; Luzi, S.; Trang, P. T. K.; Viet, P. H.; Giger, W.; Stüben, D. (2006) Arsenic removal from groundwater by household sand filters: comparative field study, model calculations, and health benefits, Environmental Science and Technology, 40(17), 5567-5573, doi:10.1021/es060144z, Institutional Repository
Luzi, S.; Berg, M.; Pham, T. K. T.; Pham, H. V.; Schertenleib, R. (2004) Household sand filters for arsenic removal - an option to mitigate arsenic from iron-rich groundwater, 34 p, Institutional Repository
Hug, S. J.; Leupin, O. X.; Berg, M. (2008) Bangladesh and Vietnam: different groundwater compositions require different approaches to arsenic mitigation, Environmental Science and Technology, 42(17), 6318-6323, doi:10.1021/es7028284, Institutional Repository
Buschmann, J.; Berg, M. (2009) Impact of sulfate reduction on the scale of arsenic contamination in groundwater of the Mekong, Bengal and Red River deltas, Applied Geochemistry, 24(7), 1278-1286, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2009.04.002, Institutional Repository
Berg, M.; Tran, H. C.; Nguyen, T. C.; Pham, H. V.; Schertenleib, R.; Giger, W. (2001) Arsenic contamination of groundwater and drinking water in Vietnam: a human health threat, Environmental Science and Technology, 35(13), 2621-2626, doi:10.1021/es010027y, Institutional Repository
Norrman, J.; Sparrenbom, C. J.; Berg, M.; Nhan, D. D.; Nhan, P. Q.; Rosqvist, H.; Jacks, G.; Sigvardsson, E.; Baric, D.; Moreskog, J.; Harms-Ringdahl, P.; Hoan, N. V. (2008) Arsenic mobilisation in a new well field for drinking water production along the Red River, Nam Du, Hanoi, Applied Geochemistry, 23(11), 3127-3142, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2008.06.016, Institutional Repository
Eiche, E.; Neumann, T.; Berg, M.; Weinman, B.; van Geen, A.; Norra, S.; Berner, Z.; Trang, P. T. K.; Hung Viet, P.; Stüben, D. (2008) Geochemical processes underlying a sharp contrast in groundwater arsenic concentrations in a village on the Red River delta, Vietnam, Applied Geochemistry, 23(11), 3143-3154, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2008.06.023, Institutional Repository
van Geen, A.; Radloff, K.; Aziz, Z.; Cheng, Z.; Huq, M. R.; Ahmed, K. M.; Weinman, B.; Goodbred, S.; Jung, H. B.; Zheng, Y.; Berg, M.; Trang, P. T. K.; Charlet, L.; Metral, J.; Tisserand, D.; Guillot, S.; Chakraborty, S.; Gajurel, A. P.; Upreti, B. N. (2008) Comparison of arsenic concentrations in simultaneously-collected groundwater and aquifer particles from Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, and Nepal, Applied Geochemistry, 23(11), 3244-3251, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2008.07.005, Institutional Repository
Polya, D. A.; Berg, M.; Gault, A. G.; Takahashi, Y. (2008) Arsenic in groundwaters of South-East Asia: with Emphasis on Cambodia and Vietnam, Applied Geochemistry, 23(11), 2968-2976, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2008.06.024, Institutional Repository
Giger, W.; Berg, M.; Pham, H. V.; Duong, H. A.; Tran, H. C.; Cao, T. H.; Schertenleib, R. (2003) Environmental analytical research in Northern Vietnam - a Swiss-Vietnamese cooperation focusing on arsenic and organic contaminants in aquatic environments and drinking water, Chimia, 57(9), 529-536, doi:10.2533/000942903777678993, Institutional Repository

Organic pollutants in Vietnam

Pham, M. H.; Nguyen, T. N.; Nguyen, H. M.; Pham, H. V.; Berg, M.; Alder, A. C.; Giger, W. (2010) Recent levels of organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in sediments of the sewer system in Hanoi, Vietnam, Environmental Pollution, 158(3), 913-920, doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2009.09.018, Institutional Repository
Duong, H. A.; Berg, M.; Hoang, M. H.; Pham, H. V.; Gallard, H.; Giger, W.; von Gunten, U. (2003) Trihalomethane formation by chlorination of ammonium- and bromide-containing groundwater in water supplies of Hanoi, Vietnam, Water Research, 37(13), 3242-3252, doi:10.1016/S0043-1354(03)00138-6, Institutional Repository
Duong, H. A.; Pham, N. H.; Nguyen, H. T.; Hoang, T. T.; Pham, H. V.; Pham, V. C.; Berg, M.; Giger, W.; Alder, A. C. (2008) Occurrence, fate and antibiotic resistance of fluoroquinolone antibacterials in hospital wastewaters in Hanoi, Vietnam, Chemosphere, 72(6), 968-973, doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2008.03.009, Institutional Repository

Cambidia groundwater As contamination

Buschmann, J.; Berg, M.; Stengel, C.; Winkel, L.; Sampson, M. L.; Trang, P. T. K.; Hung Viet, P. (2008) Contamination of drinking water resources in the Mekong delta floodplains: arsenic and other trace metals pose serious health risks to population, Environment International, 34(6), 756-764, doi:10.1016/j.envint.2007.12.025, Institutional Repository
Winkel, L.; Berg, M.; Amini, M.; Hug, S. J.; Johnson, C. A. (2008) Predicting groundwater arsenic contamination in Southeast Asia from surface parameters, Nature Geoscience, 1, 536-542, doi:10.1038/ngeo254, Institutional Repository
Buschmann, J.; Berg, M. (2009) Impact of sulfate reduction on the scale of arsenic contamination in groundwater of the Mekong, Bengal and Red River deltas, Applied Geochemistry, 24(7), 1278-1286, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2009.04.002, Institutional Repository
Buschmann, J.; Berg, M.; Stengel, C.; Sampson, M. L. (2007) Arsenic and manganese contamination of drinking water resources in Cambodia: coincidence of risk areas with low relief topography, Environmental Science and Technology, 41(7), 2146-2152, doi:10.1021/es062056k, Institutional Repository
Rodríguez Lado, L.; Polya, D.; Winkel, L.; Berg, M.; Hegan, A. (2008) Modelling arsenic hazard in Cambodia: a geostatistical approach using ancillary data, Applied Geochemistry, 23(11), 3010-3018, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2008.06.028, Institutional Repository
Polya, D. A.; Berg, M.; Gault, A. G.; Takahashi, Y. (2008) Arsenic in groundwaters of South-East Asia: with Emphasis on Cambodia and Vietnam, Applied Geochemistry, 23(11), 2968-2976, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2008.06.024, Institutional Repository

Groundwater arsenic contamination in general

Rowland, H. A. L.; Omoregie, E. O.; Millot, R.; Jimenez, C.; Mertens, J.; Baciu, C.; Hug, S. J.; Berg, M. (2011) Geochemistry and arsenic behaviour in groundwater resources of the Pannonian Basin (Hungary and Romania), Applied Geochemistry, 26(1), 1-17, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2010.10.006, Institutional Repository
Eiche, E.; Kramar, U.; Berg, M.; Berner, Z.; Norra, S.; Neumann, T. (2010) Geochemical changes in individual sediment grains during sequential arsenic extractions, Water Research, 44(19), 5545-5555, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2010.06.002, Institutional Repository
Buschmann, J.; Berg, M. (2009) Impact of sulfate reduction on the scale of arsenic contamination in groundwater of the Mekong, Bengal and Red River deltas, Applied Geochemistry, 24(7), 1278-1286, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2009.04.002, Institutional Repository
Winkel, L.; Berg, M.; Amini, M.; Hug, S. J.; Johnson, C. A. (2008) Predicting groundwater arsenic contamination in Southeast Asia from surface parameters, Nature Geoscience, 1, 536-542, doi:10.1038/ngeo254, Institutional Repository
Amini, M.; Abbaspour, K. C.; Berg, M.; Winkel, L.; Hug, S. J.; Hoehn, E.; Yang, H.; Johnson, C. A. (2008) Statistical modeling of global geogenic arsenic contamination in groundwater, Environmental Science and Technology, 42(10), 3669-3675, doi:10.1021/es702859e, Institutional Repository
Winkel, L.; Berg, M.; Stengel, C.; Rosenberg, T. (2008) Hydrogeological survey assessing arsenic and other groundwater contaminants in the lowlands of Sumatra, Indonesia, Applied Geochemistry, 23(11), 3019-3028, doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2008.06.021, Institutional Repository
Buschmann, J.; Kappeler, A.; Lindauer, U.; Kistler, D.; Berg, M.; Sigg, L. (2006) Arsenite and arsenate binding to dissolved humic acids: influence of pH, type of humic acid, and aluminum, Environmental Science and Technology, 40(19), 6015-6020, doi:10.1021/es061057+, Institutional Repository
Dodd, M. C.; Vu, N. D.; Ammann, A.; Le, V. C.; Kissner, R.; Viet Pham, H.; Cao, T. H.; Berg, M.; von Gunten, U. (2006) Kinetics and mechanistic aspects of As(III) oxidation by aqueous chlorine, chloramines, and ozone: relevance to drinking water treatment, Environmental Science and Technology, 40(10), 3285-3292, doi:10.1021/es0524999, Institutional Repository
Pham, T. K. T.; Berg, M.; Pham, H. V.; Nguyen, V. M.; van der Meer, J. R. (2005) Bacterial bioassay for rapid and accurate analysis of arsenic in highly variable groundwater samples, Environmental Science and Technology, 39(19), 7625-7630, doi:10.1021/es050992e, Institutional Repository

Contact

Dr. Michael Berg Head of Department Tel. +41 58 765 5078 Send Mail