In a recent study by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 41,833 domestic well users in Massachusetts are likely to have potentially toxic levels of Arsenic in their water (>10 ppb). This is equivalent to 5.7% of all Massachusetts residents that rely on drinking water from private wells.
Most Massachusetts wells where arsenic has been detected are in both the Worcester County and Middlesex County areas.
Arsenic has no color, odor or taste in water. Drinking arsenic-tainted water for many years can increase risks of diabetes, high blood pressure, and several types of cancer, according to the CDC.
Furthermore, in a recent study by Anne Nigra, PhD of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, there have been significant reductions in Arsenic in public drinking water since the EPA mandate to reduce levels in 2006. This effort has resulted in the prevention of thousands of cases of cancer for public water users. However, for private well users there has been no significant reduction.
Most of the arsenic documented in the new report is believed to occur naturally in rocks and minerals through which water flows. Federal researchers developed maps showing where groundwater concentrations likely exceed 10 parts per billion (ppb), the maximum amount allowed in public water supplies.
While municipal and other public water systems are required to meet federal water quality standards, well owners in Massachusetts are largely on their own in ensuring that their water is safe to drink.
“While we’re confident our research will help well owners understand if they live in an area of higher risk for arsenic, the only way for them to be certain of what’s in their water is to have it tested,” Joe Ayotte, a USGS hydrologist and lead author of the study.”
Both the Massachusetts Division of Public Health and Department of Environmental Protection highly urge well owners to have their water tested annually.
Annual testing guarantees that drinking water can be made safe because a well owner can detect harmful contaminants and have an opportunity to remove it from the water through filtration. Even if a treatment system or a specific system to remove arsenic is installed, it’s still recommended that the water is tested annually to ensure it is operating as designed or to identify if the system needs to be serviced.