Heavy metals in groundwater in a glassworks-industry region in Sweden

Principal investigator: Anna Augustsson, Linnaeus University

In relation to water quality changes, we have during 2013 initiated a new sub-project, led by Anna Augustsson at Linnaeus University, aimed specifically at detecting groundwater quality changes as basis for assessing associated environmental-health risk changes around former glassworks, located throughout Kalmar and Kronoberg counties, Sweden.Assessment of environmental and health risks associated with potential groundwater pollution from such contaminated land sites, and possible necessary remedial action, is time-consuming and costly. It is therefore crucial that such risk assessment, which forms the basis for prioritisation of management interventions, is reliable. Risk assessment, however, typically entails large uncertainties. Thus, identifying and directing efforts towards decreasing critical knowledge gaps, and thereby reducing uncertainty, is important. For people living around contaminated land sites, the overall risk is a function of the total exposure, where multiple paths of exposure generally interact. For metal contaminants originating and leaching from contaminated glassworks sites, one important exposure pathway, which is subject to large uncertainty, is the consumption of drinking water from groundwater wells affected by leached metals. Earlier groundwater analyses have indicated that metals associated with glass production may contaminate local groundwater. The work initiated in this KLIV sub-project focuses on necessary further analyses of metal concentrations in groundwater collected from private wells situated at different distances from former glassworks. Results from this study will provide an important piece of knowledge to the larger puzzle of understanding human exposure to metal contaminants due to living in a Swedish region famous for its glass industry.