Reduction in drinking water arsenic exposure and health risk through arsenic treatment among private well households in Maine and New Jersey, USA

Science of the Total Environment
By: , and 

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Abstract

Over 2 million people in the United States (U.S.) drink water from private wells that contain arsenic (As) exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10 micrograms per liter (μg/L). While there are a number of commercially available treatment technologies for removing As from drinking water, it is up to the private well households to decide whether to treat for As or not. However, how well existing treatment technologies perform in real world situations, and to what extent they reduce health risks, are not well understood. This study evaluates the effectiveness of household As treatment systems in southern-central Maine (ME, n=156) and northern New Jersey (NJ, n=94) and ascertains how untreated well water chemistry and other factors influence As removal. Untreated and treated water samples, as well as a treatment questionnaire, were collected. Most ME households in this study had point-of-use reverse-osmosis systems (POU RO), while in NJ, dual-tank point-of-entry (POE) whole house systems were popular. Arsenic treatment systems reduced well water arsenic concentrations ([As]) by up to two orders of magnitude, i.e. from a median of 71.7 to 0.8 μg/L and from a mean of 105 to 14.3 μg/L in ME, and from a median of 8.6 to 0.2 μg/L and a mean of 15.8 to 2.1 μg/L in NJ. More than half (53%) of the systems in ME reduced water [As] to below 1 µg/L, compared to 69% in NJ. The treatment system failure rates were 19% in ME (> USEPA MCL 10 µg/L) and 16% in NJ (> NJ standard 5 μg/L). In both states, the higher the untreated well water [As] and the As(III)/As ratio, the higher the rate of treatment failure. POE systems failed less than POU systems, as did the treatment systems installed and maintained by vendors than those by homeowners. The 7-fold reduction of [As] in the treated water reduced skin cancer risk alone from 3,765 to 514 in 1 million in ME, and from 568 to 75 in 1 million in NJ.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Reduction in drinking water arsenic exposure and health risk through arsenic treatment among private well households in Maine and New Jersey, USA
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139683
Volume 738
Issue 10
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) New England Water Science Center
Description 139683, 9 p.
Country United States
State Maine, New Jersey
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