Arsenic in Drinking Water and Private Wells

What is arsenic?

Arsenic is a semi-metal, a member of the nitrogen family. It occurs naturally in the earth and in the seas. It is odorless and tasteless. Arsenic is an element (As) that occurs in the earth’s crust-rock, soil, all natural sources of exposure, or can be traced to deep water brines used to produce oil and natural gas.    Consumption of food and water are the major sources of arsenic exposure for the majority of US citizens.  People may also be exposed from industrial sources, as arsenic is used in semiconductor manufacturing, petroleum refining, wood preservatives, animal feed additives, and herbicides.

Arsenic can combine with other elements to form inorganic and organic arsenicals. In general, inorganic derivatives are regarded as more toxic than the organic forms. While food contains both inorganic and organic arsenicals, primarily inorganic forms are present in water. Exposure to arsenic at high levels poses serious health effects as it is a known human carcinogen. In addition, it has been reported to affect the vascular system in humans and has been associated with the development of diabetes.

As compared to the Western part of the United States,  it is relatively rare  contaminant in Pennsylvania groundwater supplies.  A recent survey by the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) found that arsenic exceeded 5 ppb in 8% of wells in Pennsylvania.  Recent work in Northeastern Pennsylvania – Indicates that it that the occurrence may be slightly higher.

What are the symptoms of arsenic poisoning?

Observable symptoms of arsenic poisoning are: thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis, and blindness.

How does arsenic enter my private water system?

It is widely thought that naturally occurring arsenic dissolves out of certain rock formations when ground water levels drop significantly. Surface arsenic-related pollutants enter the ground water system by gradually moving with the flow of ground water from rains, melting of snow, etc. Either way, ongoing testing for arsenic is an important strategy by the private water system owner to safeguard the health and well being of their family.

Is my private well at risk?

Like many contaminants in drinking water, the element is potentially hazardous at levels or concentrations that do not impart a noticeable taste, odor, or appearance to the water.  Your best course of action is to get you water tested and compile as much information as possible about your water supply source, well construction, surrounding land-use, and local geology. If you do have an arsenic problem, there are water treatment technologies available now that can reduce or even remove arsenic from your drinking water.  Note: Do not just test your water for Arsenic because there may be other primary and secondary drinking water standards that are elevated or that may interfere with the proposed remediation system.

Learn More and Get the Water Tested

Volunteer

We seek new people at all skill levels for a variety of programs. One thing that everyone can do is attend meetings to share ideas on improving CCGG, enabling us to better understand and address the concerns of well owners.

Everything we do began with an idea.

We realize your time is precious and the world is hectic. CCGG’s volunteers do only what they’re comfortable with. It can be a little or a lot.

For more information, please go to CCGG’s About Page or contact us.

Carbon County Groundwater Guardians is a 501(c)(3) IRS approved nonprofit, volunteer organization and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law..  Unsolicited donations are appreciated.

Help the Organization and Get Your Water Tested or Order the Private Well Owner Guide (proceeds benefit This Organization).

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One Response to “Arsenic in Drinking Water and Private Wells”
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