Impact of urban development on the chemical composition of ground water in a fen-wetland complex

Samuel V. Panno, Victoria A. Nuzzo, Keros Cartwright, Bruce R. Hensel, Ivan G. Krapac

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A 15-month-long hydrogeologic investigation of a fen-wetland complex in northeastern Illinois, USA indicated the encroachment of ground-water-borne anthropogenic contaminants into two of three high quality fens. Ground-water flow directions and chemical evidence indicated that plumes of ground water with anomalously large concentrations of Na+ and Cl- originated from a private septic system and from rock salt spread on an adjacent road. The contamination, in turn, had an adverse effect on fen vegetation; within the plumes, diverse vegetation was replaced by the more salt-tolerant narrow-leaf cattail (Typha angustifolia). Ground water of the third fen contained large concentrations of SO42- as high as 516 mg/L. The SO42- anomaly was observed on a transient and/or seasonal basis in the fen ground water and in an adjacent marsh and pond. Isotopically light δ34S values in these waters indicated that the addition of SO42- resulted from the oxidation of pyrite within underlying peat and/or pyritic gravel. However, the large SO42- concentrations had no discernible effect on fen vegetation. The results of this investigation indicate how easily construction of houses with private septic systems and deicing agents from roadway maintenance can contaminate fen ground water with relatively large concentrations of Na+ and Cl-, resulting in a significant loss of biodiversity in fens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-245
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Fen
  • Ground water
  • Hydrology
  • Urban development
  • Water chemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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