Author(s): Strter E, Westbeld A, Klemm O
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The Atacama Desert in Northern Chile is one of the most arid places on earth. However, fog occurs regularly at the coastal mountain range and can be collected at different sites in Chile to supply settlements at the coast with freshwater. This is also planned in the fog oasis Alto Patache (20°49'S, 70°09'W). For this pilot study, we collected fog water samples in July and August 2008 for chemical analysis to find indications for its suitability for domestic use. METHODS: Fog water samples were taken with a cylindrical scientific fog collector and from the net and the storage tank of a Large Fog Collector (LFC). RESULTS: The pHs of advective fog, originating from the stratus cloud deck over the Eastern Pacific, varied between 2.9 and 3.5. Orographic fog, which was formed locally, exhibited a pH of 2.5. About 50\% of the total ionic concentration was due to sea salt. High percentages of sulfate and very high enrichment factors (versus sea salt) of heavy metals were found. Both backward trajectories and the enrichment factors indicate that the high concentrations of ions and heavy metals in fog were influenced by anthropogenic activities along the Chilean Pacific Coast such as power plants, mining, and steel industry. CONCLUSIONS: We found no direct indication for the importance of other sources such as the emission of dimethyl sulfide from the ocean and subsequent atmospheric oxidation for acidity and sulfate or soil erosion for heavy metal concentrations. When fog water was collected by the LFC, it apparently picked up large amounts of dry deposition which accumulated on the nets during fog-free periods. This material is rinsed off the collector shortly after the onset of a fog event with the water collected first. During the first flush, some concentrations of acidity, nitrate, As, and Se, largely exceeded the Chilean drinking water limits. Before any use of fog water for domestic purpose, its quality should be checked on a regular basis. Strategies to mitigate fog water pollution are given.
This article was published in Environ Sci Pollut Res Int
and referenced in Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry