The USGS study is the most comprehensive assessment to date of arsenic levels in the region's drinking water supply, the researchers say. It is scheduled to appear in the June 1 print version of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Although researchers have known for some time that significant concentrations (10 to 50 parts per billion) of arsenic are present in groundwater in individual states within the New England region and may pose a health threat via drinking water, little was known about the nature and extent of the naturally occurring toxin's distribution on a regional scale until now, according to the researchers.
In the current study, the researchers evaluated data on arsenic levels for 1600 public and private water sources among the region's six states(Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). The study focused primarily on the eastern part of the region, which contains the highest population density and where large amounts of groundwater are used for the water supply. Although there are some water supplies with high arsenic levels in western New England, the problem is not as extensive as it is in the eastern part of the region, they say.
"We found that elevated arsenic concentrations in private wells were much more prevalent than in public wells, in some cases by two to four times" says Joseph D. Ayotte, chief investigator for the study and a hydrologist with the USG
Contact: Beverly Hassell
American Chemical Society