Abstract

Bermuda is composed of relatively young skeletal limestones currently undergoing diagenesis by the ground water passing through them. The saturated zone consists of separate fresh-water bodies laterally surrounded and underlain by extensive brackish aureoles, in which the meteoric water is mixed with sea water. The meteoric water enters the aquifer after passing through the soil or through marshes (outcrops of the ground-water bodies), in each case causing an influx of CO2 to the saturated zone.

Examination of the ground-water chemistry enables mapping of (a) the extent of mixing of meteoric ground water and sea water; (b) PCO2; (c) the extent of saturation with calcite and aragonite; (d) concentration of Sr; and (e) the amount of calcium and magnesium derived from the limestones.

It is concluded that three processes control the chemistry of Bermudian ground water: (a) generation of elevated CO2 partial pressures in soils and marshes; (b) dissolution of metastable carbonate minerals (principally aragonite); and (c) mixing with sea water. Bermuda ground water apparently approaches a steady state of aragonite dissolution (at slight subsaturation) and concurrent precipitation of calcite cement. Large Sr/Ca ratios in the ground water indicate that the dissolution of aragonite is incongruent. Dissolution is most pronounced near the marshes where CO2 content is highest. Mixing with sea water is not significant in controlling calcite saturation.

Only small amounts of magnesium enter the ground water by incongruent dissolution of magnesium calcite, an apparently slow process on the time scale of passage of the ground water through the saturated zone. All of the waters are well undersaturated with respect to dolomite. It is estimated that the present rate of recrystallization of aragonite to calcite is about 0.32 cm3 of aragonite to calcite per m3 of the saturated zone per year. At the present rate of chemical weathering, 360 m3 of the saturated zone is lost each year through solution and transported to the sea by ground water.

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