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Occurrence and sources of lead in private wells, Sturbridge, Massachusetts

February 20, 2022

Lead (Pb) occurrence and sources and aqueous geochemistry were assessed in private wellhead and tap water at a targeted area of concern for possible exceedances and at a control area in the same geologic formation, and in wells at a nearby landfill in south-central Massachusetts (MA). Total Pb concentrations were below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Action Level of 15 μg/L in all samples, and about 6% of unfiltered samples contained Pb concentrations that exceeded 1.0 μg/L. Pb concentrations were higher under conditions that are acidic and oxic (pH ≤ 6.5 and dissolved oxygen [DO] ≥ 2 mg/L), in which minerals that could sequester lead or manganese typically are undersaturated, and adsorption by hydrous ferric oxide is limited. Under more neutral to alkaline conditions, the precipitation of Pb in solid solution series minerals such as (Ca,Pb)CO3 and (Ba,Pb)SO4−2, and adsorption by amorphous ferric hydroxides, could limit Pb solubility in the bedrock aquifer or in the plumbing. The low Pb concentrations and the absence of distinctive Pb and strontium (Sr) isotope ratio patterns in samples indicate that a nearby landfill is not likely a significant Pb source. Dissolved concentrations of Pb, copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn) in tap samples were significantly greater than those in wellhead samples, indicating that some Pb is derived from plumbing. Wellhead or tap samples with the highest Pb concentrations also had the greatest corrosivity potential based on the calcite saturation index and the PPGC (Potential to Promote Galvanic Corrosion) and supports the premise that Pb concentrations in tap samples were derived partly from corrosion of plumbing. Concentrations of other constituents, including arsenic (As), uranium (U), Sr, boron (B), and lithium (Li) were not statistically different between the tap and wellhead samples but, apart from Sr, all were statistically higher in the control area than in the target area. This variation in constituent concentrations suggests geochemical variation within the host Paxton Formation, possibly related to faulting and contact with the Ayer granite east of the control area.

Publication Year 2022
Title Occurrence and sources of lead in private wells, Sturbridge, Massachusetts
DOI 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2022.105231
Authors Leah M. Santangelo, Craig J. Brown, James B. Shanley, Michael Pribil, Danny Rutherford
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Applied Geochemistry
Index ID 70240968
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center; New England Water Science Center