Groundwater arsenic hazard in Patna district, Bihar, India; a community science approach.

  • Samuel Addison

Student thesis: Master of Philosophy


Arsenic contamination of groundwater is a concern to health and development in many regions around the globe. Within Asia, there are many barriers that hinder mitigation efforts. Of these, two key barriers are: (i) a lack of quality assured groundwater data; and (ii) a lack of community awareness. Therefore, in this study, community science has been used in Patna District (Bihar, India) a known arsenic contaminated region, to investigate the effectiveness of the use of community science both to survey groundwater and for knowledge exchange. Student volunteers from 5 schools/colleges were organised to collect, using a simple and safe method, a total of 484 groundwater derived drinking water samples together with further information, notably location and water source type. The samples were then analysed for As and U and other traces by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) and for F by Ion Chromatography (IC). The quality of the analytical data obtained was assured by (i) use of calibration standards; (ii) analysis of replicate samples; (iii) replicate analysis; and (iv) analysis of procedural blanks, blanks and independent standards. Arsenic concentrations in the water samples collected varied from 0.0 µg.L-1 to 22.8 µg.L-1 with a median of 0.8 µg.L-1 and inter-quartile range of 0.3 µg.L-1, 1.7 µg.L-1. Uranium concentrations varied from 0.0 µg.L-1 to 165 µg.L-1 with a median of 1.8 µg.L-1 and inter-quartile range of 0.8 µg.L-1, 3.5 µg.L1. Fluoride concentrations varied from 0.00 mg.L-1 to 1.03 mg.L-1 with a median of 0.24 mg.L-1 and inter-quartile range of 0.13 mg.L-1, 0.34 mg.L-1. Of the samples collected, 0.4 %, 1.8 % and 0.6 % exceeded the Indian standards for drinking water for arsenic, uranium and fluoride respectively. Arsenic and uranium concentrations tended to show an inverse relationship – this is consistent with hydrogeochemical theory that suggests arsenic is mobilised typically under reducing conditions whereas uranium is preferentially mobilised under oxidising conditions. Some separation was also evident in the locations of high arsenic and high uranium groundwaters – with the latter typically being found further from the Ganges River and other major rivers than high arsenic groundwaters. This community science study has been shown to be an effective and efficient way of undertaking groundwater sampling for subsequent screening for contaminants, notably As, U and F, although further work is required to fully determine the loss of data quality rising from the use of simplified, sampling and preservation protocols and some concerns arose about the accuracy of volunteer reported location data. This project has also been able to easily provide knowledge exchange to many hundreds of people, although COVID-19 prevented the quantitative assessment of how effective this was and is a recommended area for future work. Combined this study indicates the viability of community science approaches for both cost-effect scoping surveys and awareness raising
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDavid Polya (Supervisor) & Laura Richards (Supervisor)

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