How much arsenic is in your drinking water?

On Jan. 23, U.S. public and private water agencies will have to meet tough new standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that drastically reduce the levels of arsenic allowed in America's drinking water. But millions of homeowners aren't covered. Private wells fall beneath the regulatory radar. A new "Arsenic Information Guide" from the American Ground Water Trust will help those homeowners who aren't protected by the new arsenic standards get better informed on the subject...

CONCORD, NH, Nov. 30, 2005 -- On Jan. 23, public and private water agencies all over the United States will have to meet tough new standards from the Environmental Protection Agency that drastically reduce the levels of arsenic allowed in America's drinking water, noted the American Ground Water Trust in a news release yesterday.

But those protections won't apply to the millions of suburban homeowners and residents of rural areas who depend on their own well for their drinking water.

What's a homeowner to do? How do you find out if there's arsenic in your well, or coming out of the tap in your home? And what steps can you take to get the arsenic contamination down to the level that the scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have determined is safe?

The answers to these and many other questions about arsenic and ground water are covered in a guide just published by the American Ground Water Trust (AGWT). AGWT is a non-profit public service agency that provides educational programs throughout the US on ground water and its role in meeting America's need for safe drinking water.

"We are hopeful this guide will help to fill a critical need because the responsibility for checking the quality of water obtained from private wells lies exclusively with the property owner," said Andrew Stone, Executive Director of AGWT. "There are no regulatory agencies or community organizations that have any oversight private well authority under the new rules."

The 24 page guide entitled Arsenic and Ground Water: Questions, Answers and Solutions explains the geologic origins of arsenic, its occurrence in ground water, arsenic related health issues and methods to remove or reduce arsenic levels. Although many regions in the United States have natural occurrences of arsenic, drinking water contamination can also be caused by human activities such as mining, metal smelting and pesticide usage or from man-made products such as wood preservatives, paints, drugs, dyes and soaps.

The EPA's new arsenic standards change the allowable amount of arsenic in water supplies from 50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion. Ground water is the source of approximately half of America's drinking water supplies, but the EPA standards do not cover individually owned wells and water systems that have fewer than fifteen service connections or serve fewer than twenty-five people.

"Left untreated, arsenic in ground water poses a potential health hazard for millions of Americans," says Andrew Stone. "Although there is no one-size fits-all solution to removing arsenic from drinking water, well owners who are armed with objective information about treatment options can select equipment to protect themselves from contamination."

Arsenic is considered an "accumulative enabler" because it makes people more likely to become ill from various cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure. If consumed in high amounts arsenic may cause diseases related to the cardiovascular, pulmonary, immunological, neurological and endocrine systems in the body. Many of these health issues can be avoided if water is properly tested and treated for arsenic contamination.

The Trust's guide was first unveiled at the recent New England Private Drinking Well Symposium in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Robert Varney, US EPA Region 1 Administrator, was among the many government officials and academic experts at the conference who discussed the need to educate property owners about the importance of testing their well water for contaminants.

The Trust is distributing the new arsenic guide at educational conferences around the country. Copies to purchase are available through the Trust's website at www.awgt.org. Agencies and water well professionals interested in distributing copies of the guide to their customers can purchase in bulk at a reduced price on AGWT's website.

The American Ground Water Trust is a non-profit education organization working to protect ground water and promote resource sustainability by increasing awareness and facilitating stakeholder participation in water resource decisions. The Trust is partnering with the US Geological Survey to provide the Ground Water Institute for Teachers™ training program which gives educators real-life examples of how the science of ground water can be applied to existing curriculum.

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