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New Hampshire Study Shows Well Water Has Higher Arsenic Levels Than Municipal Water

> Arsenic in water can occur naturally or as a result of its use in industrial processes, agriculture, and as a wood preservative. The bulk of the arsenic contamination of wells in the Dartmouth study appears to be due to a natural phenomenon, weathering of bedrock, rather than anthropogenic (caused by people), according to the article.

Although arsenic is found in many types of geological conditions, a coarse-grained granite derivative called pegmatite, common to many parts of New England, appears to be the most likely source for the arsenic in New Hampshire well water, the article states.

As a result of the recent NAS report, EPA is considering lowering the maximum contaminant level for arsenic in drinking water from 50 parts per billion to somewhere between two to 20 ppb, says Stephen Peters, one of the Dartmouth researchers.

However, he points out in the journal article, "While changes in the MCL will directly affect towns and cities regulated by the U.S. EPA, they have no regulatory consequences for domestic wells, which are defined as those serving less than 15 households or 25 individuals." The study concludes that tighter federal guidelines would not necessarily "alleviate the health risk" to people who get their water from domestic wells that are not regulated by EPA.

The article claims that 15 percent of the U.S. population, including nearly 40 percent of the people in New Hampshire, obtain their water from domestic wells, most of which, it says, have not been tested for arsenic.


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Contact: Charmayne Marsh
y_marsh@acs.org
202-872-4445
American Chemical Society
31-Mar-1999


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