Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater
Arsenic is widely recognized as a naturally occurring element in rocks, soils, and the water that comes in contact with them. It is a toxic element that constitutes a contemporary human health concern because it is known to contribute to skin, bladder, and other cancers (Welch, Watkins, Helsel, & Focazio, 2000). Concern regarding the contamination of groundwater resources in the United States led the National Research Council to recommend lowering the current maximum contaminant level (MCL) allowed for drinking water of 50mg/L (micrograms per liter) because of risks for developing bladder and other cancers. In addition, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) continues to collect and analyze arsenic in potable or drinkable water from 18,850 wells in 595 counties across the United States - wells used for irrigation, industrial purposes, research, and public and private water supplies (Welch, et al, 2000).
Because of the seriousness of groundwater contamination by arsenic, numerous studies have been undertaken to identify those regions or locales where the problem is of greatest significance and therefore of greatest public health concern. This brief report will examine the evidence on the incidence of arsenic contamination of groundwater in the United States and will, to the degree possible, describe the problem as it impacts on New Jersey. It should be noted that Welch, et al (2000) have determined that arsenic concentrations in groundwater are generally highest in the Western part of the U.S., but parts of the Midwest and Northeast also have arsenic concentrations that exceed 10 mg/L, the World Health Organization's (WHO) provisional guideline for arsenic in drinking water.
Welch, Helsel, Focazio, and Watkins (1999) state that an understanding of the arsenic concentrations in groundwater can:
1. Assist water managers in overcoming
adverse health effects through avoida...