Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2023 Jan 4. doi: 10.1007/s11356-022-25019-9. Online ahead of print.
Anthropogenic and geological factors play an essential role in the variability of groundwater quality, resulting in a weak spatial dependence of groundwater trace elements. Thus, it is an essential study to investigate the factors affecting groundwater quality and its spatial abundance of trace elements (including As, B, and other metalloids). In this study, samples are obtained from a Permian sandstone fracture aquifer in a coal mining area. A multivariate statistical analysis, hydrogeochemistry modeling, and spatial autocorrelation analysis were used to analyze the data. The results showed that Moran index was positive for all trace elements, which had good spatial autocorrelation. The Local indicators of spatial association (LISA) indicated that trace elements were clustered. The hydrogeochemical modeling results indicated that the precipitation and stability of iron-phase minerals, such as rhodochrosite and arsenic (As) absorption on the surface of iron-phase minerals in the aquifer, may limit concentrations in the southern region. The spatial autocorrelations of both As and Boron (B) were positive (high-high) in the western areas, indicating that As contamination occurred from both natural geological causes and human coal mining activities. In contrast, B contamination was mainly linked to the influence of human agricultural or industrial activities. Over 96% of the groundwater concentrations of As (10 μg/L) and B (300 μg/L) in the study area exceeded World Health Organization (WHO) limits. Overall, the results of this work could help decision-makers involved in regional water quality management visualize disperse zones where specific anthropogenic and geological processes may threaten groundwater quality.