Arsenic concentrations after drinking water well installation: Time-varying effects on arsenic mobilization

Science of the Total Environment
By: , and 

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Abstract

Chronic exposure to geogenic arsenic via drinking water is a worldwide health concern. However, effects of well installation and operation on arsenic concentrations and mobilization are not well understood. This knowledge gap impacts both reliable detection of arsenic in drinking water and effective public health recommendations to reduce exposure to arsenic. This study examines changes in arsenic and redox geochemistry over one year following installation of 254 new domestic water wells in three regions of the north-central USA that commonly have elevated arsenic concentrations. Our regions' geologic settings share some important characteristics with other high-arsenic aquifers: igneous bedrock aquifers; or late Pleistocene-age glacial sand and gravel aquifers interbedded with aquitards. Over the study, arsenic concentrations increased by 16% or more in 25% of wells in glacial aquifer regions, and the redox conditions changed towards more reducing. In wells in the bedrock region, there was no significant change in arsenic concentrations, and redox conditions changed towards more oxidizing. Our findings illustrate the importance of understanding short- to moderate-term impacts of well installation and operation on arsenic and aqueous chemistry, as it relates to human exposure. Our study informs water quality sampling requirements, which currently do not consider the implications sampling timing with respect to well installation. Evaluating arsenic concentrations in samples from new wells in the context of general regional pH and redox conditions can provide information regarding the degree of disequilibrium created by well drilling. Our analysis approach may be transferable and scalable to similar aquifer settings across the globe.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Arsenic concentrations after drinking water well installation: Time-varying effects on arsenic mobilization
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.04.362
Volume 678
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Upper Midwest Water Science Center
Description 11 p.
First page 681
Last page 691
Country United States
State Minnesota