The State Organization Index provides an alphabetical listing of government organizations, including commissions, departments, and bureaus.
Top-requested sites to log in to services provided by the state
Arsenic is a naturally occurring contaminant in some groundwater in Massachusetts, usually in bedrock aquifers in the central part of the state and in the Merrimack River Valley. Drinking water from bedrock wells, also called drilled or artesian wells, and from shallow or dug wells, may contain arsenic.
Arsenic (chemical symbol As) occurs naturally in soil and bedrock in parts of Massachusetts. During the 1800s there was commercial arsenic mining in New Hampshire, but since 1985 arsenic used in the U.S. has been imported. Activities that could have left arsenic residuals include:
Arsenic has no smell, taste, or color when dissolved in water, even in high concentrations, so only laboratory analysis can detect its presence and concentration.
Arsenic ingestion can result in both chronic (long-term) and acute (short-term) health effects.
Acute effects can include:
Chronic effects include:
Chronic exposure to arsenic is also associated with an increased risk of skin, bladder, and lung cancer. There is also evidence that long-term exposure to arsenic can increase risks for kidney and prostate cancer. The following factors determine health risks:
The current drinking water standard, or Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is 0.010 mg/L or parts per million (ppm). This is equal to 10 ug/L (micrograms per liter) or 10 ppb. In 2001, EPA reduced the regulatory MCL from 50 ppb to 10 ppb on the basis of bladder and lung cancer risks. Long term exposure to drinking water containing arsenic at levels higher than 10 ppb increases the chances of getting cancer; for lower levels the chances are less.
If your water has arsenic levels above 10 ppb, you should get drinking water from another source or install a home treatment device. Levels above 10 ppb will increase the risk of long-term or chronic health problems. The higher the level and length of exposure, the greater the risk. It is especially important to reduce arsenic water concentrations if you have children or are pregnant. Children are at greater risk because of their greater water consumption on a per unit body weight basis.
Pregnant women should reduce their arsenic exposures, because arsenic may occur in mother's milk and will cross the placenta, increasing exposure and risk for the fetus.
If your water has arsenic levels above 200 ppb, you should immediately stop drinking the water until you can either get water from another source or install treatment.
Unless your arsenic level is over 500 ppb, showering, bathing and other household uses are safe. Arsenic is not absorbed through the skin and does not evaporate into the air.
If you have a private well constructed in bedrock, you should have the water tested to determine if arsenic is present. For a searchable listing of MassDEP Certified Laboratories, see the link under "Additional Resources" below. The cost for a homeowner to test for arsenic may range from $15 to $30.
See the Searchable Online Listing of Certified Water-Testing Laboratories under "Additional Resources" below.
If the arsenic level in your well water is above 10 ppb, there are several treatment methods available. Before selecting a treatment method, consider these factors:
The NHDES survey did not include costs for the installation and maintenance of pre-oxidation treatment, which arsenic 3 concentration may require.
Contact Joe Cerutti of the Boston Drinking Water Program at 617-292-5859 or email email@example.com.