Between 1974 and 2001 water from as many as one-third of wells in the Eastern San Joaquin Ground Water Subbasin, about 80 miles east of San Francisco, had arsenic concentrations greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for arsenic of 10 micrograms per liter (ug/L). Water from some wells had arsenic concentrations greater than 60 ug/L. The sources of arsenic in the study area include (1) weathering of arsenic bearing minerals, (2) desorption of arsenic associated with iron and manganese oxide coatings on the surfaces of mineral grains at pH's greater than 7.6, and (3) release of arsenic through reductive dissolution of iron and manganese oxide coatings in the absence of oxygen. Reductive dissolution is responsible for arsenic concentrations greater than the MCL. The distribution of arsenic varied areally and with depth. Concentrations were lower near ground-water recharge areas along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada; whereas, concentrations were higher in deeper wells at the downgradient end of long flow paths near the margin of the San Joaquin Delta (fig. 1). Management opportunities to control high arsenic concentrations are present because water from the surface discharge of wells is a mixture of water from the different depths penetrated by wells. On the basis of well-bore flow and depth-dependent water-quality data collected as part of this study, the screened interval of a public-supply well having arsenic concentrations that occasionally exceed the MCL was modified to reduce arsenic concentrations in the surface discharge of the well. Arsenic concentrations from the modified well were about 7 ug/L. Simulations of ground-water flow to the well showed that although upward movement of high-arsenic water from depth within the aquifer occurred, arsenic concentrations from the well are expected to remain below the MCL.
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USGS Numbered Series
Source, Distribution, and Management of Arsenic in Water from Wells, Eastern San Joaquin Ground-Water Subbasin, California