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How or when samples are collected affects measured arsenic concentration in new drinking water wells

December 1, 2018

Naturally occurring arsenic can adversely affect water quality in geologically diverse aquifers throughout the world. Chronic exposure to arsenic via drinking water is a human health concern due to risks for certain cancers, skin abnormalities, peripheral neuropathy, and other negative health effects. Statewide in Minnesota, USA, 11% of samples from new drinking water wells have arsenic concentrations exceeding 10 μg/L; in certain counties more than 35% of tested samples exceed 10 μg/L arsenic. Since 2008, Minnesota well code has required testing water from new wells for arsenic. Sample collection protocols are not specified in the well code, so among 180 well drillers there is variability in sampling methods, including sample collection point and sample collection timing. This study examines the effect of arsenic sample collection protocols on the variability of measured arsenic concentrations in water from new domestic water supply wells. Study wells were drilled between 2014 and 2016 in three regions of Minnesota that commonly have elevated arsenic concentrations in groundwater. Variability in measured arsenic concentration at a well was reduced when samples were (1) filtered, (2) collected from household plumbing instead of from the drill rig pump, or (3) collected several months after well construction (instead of within 4 weeks of well installation). Particulates and fine aquifer sediments entrained in groundwater samples, or other artifacts of drilling disturbance, can cause undesirable variability in measurements. Establishing regulatory protocols requiring sample filtration and/or collection from household plumbing could improve the reliability of information provided to well owners and to secondary data users.

Publication Year 2018
Title How or when samples are collected affects measured arsenic concentration in new drinking water wells
DOI 10.1111/gwat.12643
Authors Melinda L. Erickson, Helen F. Malenda, Emily C. Berquist
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Groundwater
Index ID 70201740
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Water Science Center