Unusual episodic fluctuations of electrical conductivity (EC) were observed twice a year in a national groundwater monitoring network well in South Korea where EC was automatically monitored at a depth of 20 m below ground level (bgl). To address the causes of the observed EC fluctuations, this study examined the depth profile of wellbore water in the 70-meter-deep monitoring well screened between 50 and 70 m bgl and cased down to 50 m bgl. The results of well logging, borehole video recording, and hydrochemical analysis of wellbore water indicated that the CO2-rich groundwater entering through the screened zones below 50 m bgl was physicochemically stratified into three layers with distinct EC that were separated by two transition zones in the well: a bottom layer (70–43 m bgl) with an EC of ∼3900 μS/cm, intermediate layer (35–24 m bgl) of ∼1800 μS/cm, and top layer (16–3 m bgl) of ∼300 μS/cm. The first transition zone at depths of 43–35 m bgl was attributed to CO2 exsolution in the open system and the subsequent physicochemical changes of wellbore water, while the second transition zone at depths of 24–16 m bgl was formed by the precipitation of hydrous ferric oxides with consequent sorption of remaining ions due to a sudden change toward the oxidizing environment. The monitoring probe installed at a depth of 20 m bgl was found to be located within the upper transition zone, which caused EC peaks when the well was purged at a depth of 25 m bgl for well maintenance twice a year. This study shows that automated groundwater monitoring systems may misguide one about the groundwater quality if an unexpected physicochemical variation (such as stratification) occurs in a monitoring well. Therefore, the presence of interface zones caused by abrupt changes in EC must be carefully considered when an automated monitoring well is designed. The screened zone is a suitable location for installing an automated monitoring probe to measure the representative water quality (i.e., EC), in particular, in an aquifer that is under the influence of inputs of low-pH and high-TDS fluids (e.g., CO2-rich groundwater and acid mine drainage).
- Automated monitoring
- CO exsolution
- CO-rich groundwater
- Iron oxy-hydroxides precipitation
- Physicochemical stratification
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Water Science and Technology