Arsenic is an element that naturally occurs in the earth’s crust and traces of it can be commonly spread throughout the environment. The arsenic in soil originated naturally and human activities in the past also contributed to its increase in some areas.
Arsenic is found naturally in groundwater and also can be the result of pesticide and wood preservative.
Arsenic in Water
In some cities today, there are high traces of arsenic found in the water. This can be very dangerous especially if a person is exposed to high levels of it.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the concentration of arsenic in all drinking waters to 10 parts per billion (ppb). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set a limitation for arsenic in bottled water and apple juice to 10 ppb as well. As of now, foods don’t have federal limits yet for the use of arsenic.
For industrial sources, the EPA also limited the use of arsenic for their production and operation since it can easily disperse the element into the environment. The same thing goes for pesticides since spraying it can cause the fumes to be delivered through the air and can risk the chances that it can be inhaled by people nearby.
How to Find Out Presence of Arsenic in Water
If your water is contaminated with arsenic, then it can be difficult to detect since it doesn’t give off any smell, taste or color. The only way to determine its presence is through a lab test.
If you want to have your water tested, it’s recommended that you bring it to a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) certified lab since they are credited to analyze the arsenic levels. The average cost for the testing is less than $50 per sample. Laboratories will usually teach you the correct process for collecting the water or they will do it themselves.
Drinking Arsenic Water
If the arsenic in your water is above the new MCL of 5µg/L, don’t use it for any consumption such as drinking, mixing, cooking and other consumptive ways. It would be wise to follow arsenic removal methods to ensure the safety of water use in your household.
The DEP also recommends that all household should follow arsenic removal methods if ever it reaches the level of above 5µg/L. But for those below 5µg/L, corrective actions can only be a personal decision as of the moment.
If you plan on doing the arsenic treatment on your own, make sure to avoid boiling the water at all cost. This process will just increase the concentration of arsenic in your water. Water will just evaporate and the arsenic is there to stay thus increasing its level in your water.
Bathing with Arsenic and Other Uses
Arsenic does not evaporate from drinking water. This also means that inhalation of the element cannot be normally done in water. There are also no risks that arsenic can be absorbed in the skin so showering, bathing and washing doesn’t pose any danger to arsenic exposure at all.
Treatment Options for Arsenic in the Water
If you want to reduce the level of arsenic in your water, then there are short-term and long-term methods that you can follow. For the meantime, you can resolve to purchasing bottled water for cooking and drinking as a means of short-term solution for your arsenic problem.
If the arsenic level in your home is above 5µg/L, it’s recommended that you switch your connection to a public water system. But in most areas, this kind of solution is not cost-effective.
You can replace your well if you want but the local geology and sources wouldn’t suggest that drilling a new one can remove arsenic in your water and increase its quality. But if the water system connection is not available in your community, then water treatment systems can be installed in your home as an alternative.
Here are the two types of arsenic removal that you can use:
The preferred treatment technology for this is the titanium dioxide media filter system. This particular system works effectively in removing the arsenic and it is both easy to maintain and operate. It also won’t let arsenic be returned to the environment thus making it the effective one so far. It lasts longer than the other type of media (ferric oxide).
Another option that you can is a POU cartridge system which will remove the arsenic from a specific tap wherein in common cases, the kitchen sink.
These systems can produce two quarts per minute and they are used to treat the water for drinking and cooking. The duration of these cartridges can last for up to a year and it costs $400 for the installation and $120 for the maintenance.
There are also other technologies that can be used to removing arsenic which includes anion exchange and reverse osmosis. In order to choose the best treatment system, household owners should consult with local health officers before deciding on which one to use since the water chemistry, geology and use of the water are an important basis for a treatment option.
If you want further information and want to get a detailed explanation about the removal systems available for you, then it’s best to contact your local health officer or a water treatment company that specializes in residential water treatment. You need to also inquire if a local health department permit is required in such installation of a system for your home.
If ever a removal system has been installed in your home, make sure to conduct another test to see if it indeed treated your water and removed the arsenic contamination. This will ensure that the system you have installed for your home is working effectively and returned the arsenic to an acceptable level.
Need help with your well water? I have been assisting homeowners, small communities and businesses improve their well water quality since 1989. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question about water testing, test kits or well water systems in general. Gerry Bulfin CWS-IV Master Water Specialist WQA Certified Licensed California Water Treatment Contractor