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Review

A Review on the Application of Isotopic Techniques to Trace Groundwater Pollution Sources within Developing Countries

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani P.O. Box 214, Ghana
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Regional Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani P.O. Box 214, Ghana
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Department of Chemistry, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, Mount Aureol, Freetown P.O. Box 87, Sierra Leone
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Department of Energy and Petroleum Engineering, University of Energy and Natural Resources, Sunyani P.O. Box 214, Ghana
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National Nuclear Research Institute, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, Legon Accra P.O. Box LG 80, Ghana
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National Water Resource Management Agency, King Harman Road, Freetown P.O. Box 778, Sierra Leone
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Anas Ghadouani
Water 2022, 14(1), 35; https://doi.org/10.3390/w14010035
Received: 12 October 2021 / Revised: 25 November 2021 / Accepted: 1 December 2021 / Published: 24 December 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Water Quality and Contamination)
Owing to a lack of efficient solid waste management (SWM) systems, groundwater in most developing countries is found to be contaminated and tends to pose significant environmental health risks. This review paper proffers guidelines on the application of isotopic techniques to trace groundwater pollution sources from data spanning from 2010 to 2020 within developing countries. Earlier groundwater studies in those countries were mainly focused on using hydrochemical and geophysical techniques. The limitation of these techniques is that they can only monitor the concentration of pollutants in the water bodies and possible leachate infiltration but cannot determine the specific sources of the pollution. Stable isotopes of δ18O, δ2H and δ13C can confirm leachate migration to water bodies due to methanogenesis. The high tritium in landfill leachates is useful to identify leachate percolation in groundwater. The δ15N technique has been used to distinguish between synthetic and organic nitrogen sources but its application is limited to differentiating between atmospheric vs. inorganic nitrogen sources. The use of a dual isotope of δ15N–NO3 and δ18O–NO3 is beneficial in terms of identifying various sources of nitrogen such as atmospheric and inorganic fertilizers but is yet to be used to differentiate between nitrogen pollution sources from dumpsites, sewage and animal manure. The coupling of the 11B isotope with δ15N–NO3 and δ18O–NO3 and other hydrochemical parameters has proven to be effective in distinguishing between nitrate fertilizer, animal manure, seawater contamination and sewage. Therefore, in areas affected by agricultural activities, landfill leachates, domestic or sewage effluent and seawater intrusion, it is incumbent to couple hydrochemical (Cl, NO3, B, DO) and isotope techniques (δ18O, 2H, δ13C, δ18O–NO3, δ15N–NO3, δ11B and 3H) to effectively determine pollution sources of groundwater in developing countries. The foregoing review will provide guidelines for studies that may aim to critically distinguish between seawater intrusion, dumpsites, sewage and septic leachates. View Full-Text
Keywords: isotope techniques; groundwater pollution; dumpsites; leachate; seawater intrusion isotope techniques; groundwater pollution; dumpsites; leachate; seawater intrusion
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MDPI and ACS Style

Sankoh, A.A.; Derkyi, N.S.A.; Frazer-williams, R.A.D.; Laar, C.; Kamara, I. A Review on the Application of Isotopic Techniques to Trace Groundwater Pollution Sources within Developing Countries. Water 2022, 14, 35. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14010035

AMA Style

Sankoh AA, Derkyi NSA, Frazer-williams RAD, Laar C, Kamara I. A Review on the Application of Isotopic Techniques to Trace Groundwater Pollution Sources within Developing Countries. Water. 2022; 14(1):35. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14010035

Chicago/Turabian Style

Sankoh, Abdul A., Nana S.A. Derkyi, Ronnie A.D. Frazer-williams, Cynthia Laar, and Ishmail Kamara. 2022. "A Review on the Application of Isotopic Techniques to Trace Groundwater Pollution Sources within Developing Countries" Water 14, no. 1: 35. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14010035

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