Arsenic concentrations were measured in 57 domestic wells in Preble, Miami, and Shelby Counties, in southwestern Ohio. The median arsenic concentration was 7.1 ?g/L (micrograms per liter), and the maximum was 67.6 ?g/L. Thirty-seven percent of samples had arsenic concentrations greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standard of 10 ?g/L.
Elevated arsenic concentrations (>10 ?g/L) were detected over the entire range of depths sampled (42 to 221 feet) and in each of three aquifer types, Silurian carbonate bedrock, glacial buried-valley deposits, and glacial till with interbedded sand and gravel.
One factor common in all samples with elevated arsenic concentrations was that iron concentrations were greater than 1,000 ?g/L. The observed correlations of arsenic with iron and alkalinity are consistent with the hypothesis that arsenic was released from iron oxides under reducing conditions (by reductive dissolution or reductive desorption).
Comparisons among the three aquifer types revealed some differences in arsenic occurrence. For buried-valley deposits, the median arsenic concentration was 4.6 ?g/L, and the maximum was 67.6 ?g/L. There was no correlation between arsenic concentrations and depth; the highest concentrations were at intermediate depths (about 100 feet). Half of the buried-valley samples were estimated to be methanic. Most of the samples with elevated arsenic concentrations also had elevated concentrations of dissolved organic carbon and ammonia.
For carbonate bedrock, the median arsenic concentration was 8.0 ?g/L, and the maximum was 30.7 ?g/L. Arsenic concentrations increased with depth. Elevated arsenic concentrations were detected in iron- or sulfate-reducing samples. Arsenic was significantly correled with molybdenum, strontium, fluoride, and silica, which are components of naturally ocurring minerals.
For glacial till with interbedded sand and gravel, half of the samples had elevated arsenic concentrations. The median was 11.4 ?g/L, and the maximum was 27.6 ?g/L. At shallow depths (<100 feet), this aquifer type had higher arsenic and iron concentrations than carbonate bedrock.
It is not known whether these observed differences among aquifer types are related to variations in (1) arsenic content of the aquifer material, (2) organic carbon content of the aquifer material, (3) mechanisms of arsenic mobilization (or uptake), or (4) rates of arsenic mobilization (or uptake). A followup study that includes solid-phase analyses and geochemical modeling was begun in 2004 in northwestern Preble County.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Arsenic in ground water in selected parts of southwestern Ohio, 2002-03