Arsenic Water Treatment

What is Arsenic?

Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in soil and bedrock. Traces of arsenic can also be found in groundwater, lakes, rivers and ocean water. Some foods can also contain levels of the organic (non-toxic) form of arsenic.

High levels of inorganic arsenic, the more toxic form, have been found in over 1,200 private wells in Wisconsin. With the exception of Milwaukee county, arsenic levels in excess of 10 parts per billion (ppb) have been found in all other counties in SE Wisconsin.

Guthrie & Frey offers arsenic water treatment to protect your home from harmful levels of inorganic arsenic.

Arsenic Exposure

Since arsenic is a natural part of the environment, everyone is exposed to small amounts. The major source of arsenic exposure is drinking water that contains elevated levels of arsenic. Arsenic can be easily absorbed by drinking contaminated water or by breathing airborne particulates. Arsenic is not easily absorbed through the skin and does not evaporate from the water into the air.

Point of Entry

These systems are designed to reduce arsenic levels to below 10 ppb for all water within the home (excludes irrigation). The 2 main types of treatment are those that involve chlorination and oxidation and those that utilize absorptive medias. After testing your water, we’ll select the best option for your home based on your area and what is in your water following the water test. At present, an absorptive media application would require state approval for each application. In cases where the well serves the public, the equipment recommendations will require DNR approval.

Point of Use

These systems are designed to reduce arsenic to levels below 10 ppb to a few points of use only (i.e. faucet at the kitchen sink and refrigerator). Depending on the quantity and type of arsenic based on the water test, a traditional reverse osmosis system may already be approved for this application. These systems are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased or rented. If the arsenic makeup has not been speciated and/or the majority is in a trivalent form, a more elaborate, state approved RO system would be recommended. These systems employ a chlorination step. The less expensive chlorine feed option is a simpler design that requires a less precise method of chlorine introduction. All the RO systems would require routine maintenance (depending on the system and the level of service it requires).

Much of the above listed information is from the Wisconsin department of Natural Resources form PUB-DG-062.

Arsenic Testing

You cannot taste, smell or see arsenic. Testing is the only way to identify arsenic in drinking water. The current standard is a maximum contaminant level of 10 ppb. Arsenic levels below 100 ppb are typically considered safe to bathe in. Depending on the lab, total arsenic tests can now be turned around in approximately 7 business days beginning from the date the lab receives the sample.

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Water Treatment Options

  • Point of entry treatment – also known as whole house filtration with water softeners/conditioners.
  • Point of use treatment – reverse osmosis units that are attached to faucets/appliances, typically in the kitchen or bathroom.

How does arsenic get into the drinking water?

Most of the arsenic found in Wisconsin groundwater is naturally occurring, deposited in the soil and bedrock over millions of years. Increased demand on the aquifer is believed to have exposed new areas of bedrock to oxygen resulting in chemical reactions that can release arsenic into the water.

How can arsenic affect health?

Water contaminated by arsenic can have both minor and major affects to your health depending on how long you are exposed to it. The consumption of drinking water contaminated with arsenic has been associated with the following possible health effects: various cancers, unusual skin pigmentation, numbness of hands/feet, circulatory disorders, tremors, nausea, diarrhea, diabetes, and depression.

Arsenic/Nitrate Testing Requirements

As of October 1st, 2014, all real estate transactions on a private well that require a well inspection will require that the water be tested for bacteria, nitrates and total arsenic. New construction projects are NOT subject to the arsenic and nitrate testing. However, if that new construction project is a model or spec home and the eventual sale takes place down the road and requires a well inspection, that property will then become subject to the arsenic and nitrate testing requirements.

The DNR has stated that “due to the chemical nature of arsenic in ground water, it must be recognized by all that arsenic levels can change with time. There is no such thing as an iron clad clean bill of health.”

Ask An Expert About Aresenic

Q:

What is arsenic?

A:

Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in soil and bedrock. Traces of arsenic can also be found in groundwater, lakes, rivers and ocean water. Some foods can also contain levels of the organic (non-toxic) form of arsenic.

High levels of inorganic arsenic, the more toxic form, have been found in over 1,200 private wells in Wisconsin. Except for Milwaukee county, arsenic levels in excess of 10 ppb have been found in all other counties in SE Wisconsin.

Q:

What are the sources of arsenic?

A:

Since arsenic is a natural part of the environment, everyone is exposed to small amounts. The major source of arsenic exposure is drinking water that contains elevated levels of arsenic. Arsenic can be easily absorbed by drinking contaminated water or by breathing airborne particulates. Arsenic is not easily absorbed through the skin and does not evaporate from the water into air.

Q:

How does arsenic get into the drinking water?

A:

Arsenic is a natural occurrence but can be harmful if in its toxic state. Most of the arsenic found in Wisconsin groundwater is naturally occurring, deposited in the soil and bedrock over millions of years. Increased demand on the aquifer is believed to have exposed new areas of bedrock to oxygen resulting in chemical reactions that can release arsenic into the water.

Q:

What are the effects of arsenic on human health?

A:

The consumption of drinking water contaminated with arsenic has been associated with the following possible health effects: unusual skin pigmentation, numbness of hands/feet, circulatory disorders, tremors, various cancers, nausea, diarrhea, diabetes, and depression.

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