That is, the more that residents report their well water tests to the health district, the better the district is able to pinpoint areas in town where there could be elevated levels of arsenic.
Westport Weston Health District Director Mark Cooper said he is encouraged by the number of Weston homeowners who have gotten their wells tested following recent articles in The Forum about a Weston resident with health problems who discovered she had a high level of arsenic in her water. “We’re getting good feedback from the articles,” Mr. Cooper said.
In light of the reports of arsenic in well water in Weston and other towns in the state, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a statement on March 18 recommending that all private well owners in the state have their water tested for arsenic and uranium.
Mr. Cooper is using water test results submitted by residents to compile a map that shows areas in Weston where elevated levels of arsenic have been found in well water.
Mr. Cooper will present the map at a public discussion and presentation on arsenic on Thursday, April 11, at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at the Weston Public Library. He will be joined by state epidemiologist Brian Toal, who will discuss arsenic levels around the state.
“Residents can continue to send me their water test results up until April 11,” Mr. Cooper said.
According to federal standards, the acceptable level of arsenic in water is 10 parts per billion, or 0.01. When people first started submitting their water tests to Mr. Cooper, he said, about 50% were above the recommended limit for arsenic and 50% were below the limit.
As more tests are submitted, he said, he has noticed a change in those percentages.
So far, the district has received 104 water tests for private wells in Weston, he said. Out of those 104 test samples, 69.2% were below the recommended action level for arsenic. Of those, 39.4% of the wells had no arsenic at all in them, and 29.8% were in the 0.005 to 0.01 range, far below the recommended action level.
Above the limit
The remaining 30.69% of the test samples had arsenic above the recommended 0.01 action level.
Of those 30.69%, 23% ranged from 0.011 to 0.020, slightly above the recommended action level, 4.8% were in the 0.021 to 0.030 range, 1.92% were in the 0.040 to 0.050 range, and 0.06 % were 0.0115 or higher, which Mr. Cooper said was pretty high.
He said the percentages will likely continue to “move around” a little bit as the sample size continues to increase.
While the state requires testing of public water supplies every three years, there is no mandatory testing for private wells. Water testing is up to individual homeowners on a voluntary basis.
The only way to know if arsenic or uranium is present in a private well is to have the water tested by an approved environmental water testing lab. Since tests for arsenic and uranium are not usually part of a “standard well analysis,” homeowners will need to specifically ask labs to analyze for these metals.
The DPH has a list of approved environmental water testing labs on its website, ct.gov/dph. Under “Latest News,” a link to the list can be found at the bottom of “DPH Recommends Arsenic and Uranium Testing for Private Wells.”
The cost for testing for both metals can range between $65 and $100, according to Mr. Toal.
Arsenic and uranium are metals that occur naturally in bedrock all over the world.
When groundwater comes in contact with the bedrock, the metals may leach out and contaminate private wells.
The DPH warns that both metals are considered toxic and can have a variety of adverse health effects if people are exposed at high enough levels and for a long period of time.
Arsenic is classified as a human cancer-causing agent, which has been associated with increased risk of lung, bladder and skin cancers.
Sensitivity is also an issue when it comes to arsenic. Mr. Cooper said some people who are exposed to high levels of arsenic have no problems, while others who are exposed to low levels can suffer ill effects.
Arsenic may also be found in some foods. So in addition to the arsenic level in water, people who might be sensitive to arsenic should look at their diet to see if they are ingesting such foods as shellfish, leafy greens and rice, which can be high in arsenic, Mr. Cooper said.