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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Urban Pollutants

Nitrate in Shallow Groundwater Associated with Residential Land Use in Central Florida


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 43 No. 2, p. 639-646
    Received: Sept 27, 2012
    Published: June 23, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): william.tucker@amec.com
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  1. W. A. Tucker *a,
  2. M. C. Diblina,
  3. R. A. Mattsonb,
  4. R. W. Hicksc and
  5. Y. Wangd
  1. a AMEC Environment & Infrastructure, Inc., 404 SW 140th Terrace, Newberry, FL 32669
    b St. Johns River Water Management District, 4049 Reid St., Palatka, FL 32177
    c Florida Dep. of Environmental Protection, 2600 Blair Stone Rd., Tallahassee, FL 32399-2400
    d ZymaX Forensics/Pace Analytical, 600 S. Andreason Dr., Suite B, Escondido, CA 92029. Assigned to Associate Editor Pamela Rice


The primary objective of this study was to quantify the effects of residential fertilizer use on groundwater quality, which have not been well defined by field-scale investigations. Concentrations of constituents associated with fertilizer use were monitored in shallow groundwater in residential areas in Orange and Seminole Counties of Central Florida. The study area is within the Wekiva River basin, a river that is primarily spring fed. Sampling locations were selected to represent land in residential use for more than 5 yr and to avoid septic systems and areas recently used for citrus production. Twenty-six wells were installed in the surficial aquifer, screened within approximately 3 m of the water table, which was encountered between 0.3 and 11.5 m below land surface. Of these wells, 24 were in residential areas, scattered over an area of about 2600 ha, and two were in nearby undeveloped areas. Samples were collected four times between October 2008 and July 2009. Concentrations of nitrate plus nitrite nitrogen (NOX–N) averaged 2.0 ± 0.2 mg L−1 in the residential areas and were significantly higher (p < 0.01) than observed in undeveloped areas (0.3 ± 0.1 mg L−1). Groundwater was also analyzed for stable isotopes of nitrogen and oxygen and has been analyzed for bacteria (by others), which corroborated that these wells were not affected by human or animal waste. Levels of NOX–N in the residential areas are primarily attributed to residential fertilizer use, considering the control for and exclusion of other plausible sources.

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