The Threat of Contaminants in Drinking Water
|Contaminant||EPA MCL (mg/L)||Potential Health effects from exposure above the MCL||Common sources of contaminate in drinking water|
|Total Coliform (includes fecal coliform & E. coli)||zero presence||Indicate whether potentially harmful bacteria may be present.||Coliforms are naturally present in the environment.|
|Nitrates, Total||10||Infants below the age of six months who drink water containing nitrate in excess of the MCL could become seriously ill and, if untreated, may die. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blue-baby syndrome.||Runoff from fertilizer use; leaching from septic tanks, sewage; erosion of natural deposits.|
|Arsenic||0.010||Skin damage or problems with circulatory systems, and may have increased risk of getting cancer.||Erosion of natural deposits; runoff from orchards, runoff from glass and electronics production waste.|
|Lead||Action Level = 0.015||Infants and children: Delays in physical or mental development; children could show slight deficits in attention span and learning abilities; Adults: Kidney problems; high blood pressure.||Corrosion of household plumbing systems; erosion of natural deposits.|
Arsenic/Nitrate Testing Requirements
As of 10/1/14, 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.
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”.
On-site Water Testing
• TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)
On-site water testing involves a quick water analysis performed on your property itself. These tests check pH, TDS and ORP (Oxidation-Reduction Potential) levels to get a snapshot of water quality.
Off-site Testing Services
• Send out water samples to private labs to test for arsenic and nitrates.
• Do about 6 of these a week.
• Charge the customer the lab charge and if G&F delivers it, they and add a trip charge.
Off-site water testing involves taking a sample of your water (a few bottles) to a laboratory for inspections. Guthrie & Frey will collect and deliver the sample to the laboratory.
• Bacteria chloroform test
• Results say Safe or Unsafe
Coliform bacteria is a group of microorganisms found in plants, soil, surface water and also the intestines of animals and humans. The bacteria can seep through cracked or poorly sealed wells and contaminate your drinking water causing a range of health hazards. Our safety test system will let you know whether your water is safe to drink.
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 ppb have been found in all other counties in SE Wisconsin.
What is the source of 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 in to air.
How does arsenic get in to 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 in to the water.
How can arsenic affect health?
The consumption of drinking water contaminated with arsenic has been associated with the following possible health effects: skin cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, unusual skin pigmentation, numbness of hands/feet, circulatory disorders, tremors, nausea, diarrhea, diabetes, and depression.