Fluorine geochemistry in bedrock groundwater of South Korea

Gi Tak Chae, Seong Taek Yun, Bernhard Mayer, Kyoung Ho Kim, Seong Yong Kim, Jang Soon Kwon, Kangjoo Kim, Yong Kwon Koh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

328 Citations (Scopus)


High fluoride concentrations (median = 4.4 mg/L) in deep bedrock groundwater of South Korea prevent the usage of it as a drinking water source. The hydrogeochemistry of deep thermal groundwaters (N = 377) in diverse bedrocks has been studied in order to evaluate the geologic and geochemical controls on fluoride concentrations in groundwater. The groundwater samples were clustered geologically, and the average and median concentrations of fluoride were compared by the Mann-Whitney U test. The order of median fluoride concentration with respect to geology is as follows: metamorphic rocks ≥ granitoids ≥ complex rock ≫ volcanic rocks ≥ sedimentary rocks. This result indicates that the geological source of fluoride in groundwater is related to the mineral composition of metamorphic rocks and granitoids. With respect to groundwater chemistry, the fluoride concentration was highest in Na-HCO3 type groundwater and lowest in Ca-HCO3 type groundwater. Ionic relationships also imply that the geochemical behavior of fluoride in groundwater is related to the geochemical process releasing Na and removing Ca ions. The thermodynamic relationship between the activities of Ca and F indicates that fluoride concentration is controlled by the equilibrium of fluorite (CaF2). In other words, the upper limits of fluoride concentration are determined by the Ca ion; i.e., Ca concentrations play a crucial role in fluoride behavior in deep thermal groundwater. The result of this study suggests that the high fluoride in groundwater originates from geological sources and fluoride can be removed by fluorite precipitation when high Ca concentration is maintained. This provides a basis for a proper management plan to develop the deep thermal groundwater and for treatment of high fluoride groundwater frequently found in South Korea.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-283
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Oct 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported from the Korea Research Foundation (Project no. C20288). The authors thank many colleagues in the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM) for offering the data. Some data used in this study were collected by the support from the Environmental Geosphere Research Lab (EGRL) of Korea University. We also thank three anonymous reviewers for providing many constructive comments on the manuscript.


  • Bedrock groundwater
  • Fluoride and fluorosis
  • Geologic control
  • Hydrochemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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