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Front. Environ. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00162

Submarine groundwater discharge and stream baseflow sustain pesticide and nutrient fluxes in Faga’alu Bay, American Samoa

 Eric M. Welch1,  Henrietta Dulai1*,  Aly El-Kadi1 and Christopher Shuler1
  • 1University of Hawaii at Manoa, United States

It is increasingly recognized that groundwater discharge in the form of stream baseflow and submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) plays an important role in contaminant transport. This study seeks to demonstrate the importance of groundwater flow for the distribution and transport of selected pesticides and nutrients in the Faga`alu aquifer on the island of Tutuila in American Samoa. Field measurements, including seepage runs and analysis of stream and groundwater for pesticides and nutrients, were combined with hydrological modeling. Selected analytes were glyphosate (GLY), dichlorodiphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), imidacloprid, and azoxystrobin for pesticides and chemical species of nitrogen, phosphate, and silicate for nutrients. Hydrological flow and transport models of the aquifer were built to simulate groundwater flow and to provide estimates of GLY and dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) fluxes. Stream baseflow was responsible for 59% and SGD for 41% of groundwater flow to the bay, which totaled 6,550 m3/d in the dry season when surface runoff was negligible. DDT was found in 85% and GLY in 100% of tested samples. SGD and baseflow thus delivered 9 g/d of DDT, 0.9 g/d of GLY, 570 g/d of DIN and 840 g/d of dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) into Faga’alu Bay. While all pesticide levels are below environmental limits, their presence in baseflow and SGD, which discharge continuously year-round, result in sustained fluxes of GLY and DDT to the reef. The presence of DDT in groundwater decades after its last application confirms its long-term environmental persistence.

Keywords: Submarine Ground water Discharge, Stream baseflow, Pesticides, Nutrients, Water Quality, Hydrological model, Groundwater hydrology

Received: 29 Jun 2019; Accepted: 30 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Welch, Dulai, El-Kadi and Shuler. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Henrietta Dulai, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, 96822, Hawaii, United States,