Arsenic 101 | Is my Water Safe if it has Arsenic?
Maine homes and Arsenic- Arsenic is a known carcinogen that can be found in almost any drinking water supply, throughout Maine. Towns such as Gorham, Standish and Scarborough are just a few of those known for having higher concentrations of Arsenic.
In this article we’ll explain why Arsenic is such a concern, and what factors you should consider when buying or selling a home in the state of Maine.
What is Arsenic?
Arsenic is a tasteless, odorless carcinogen. It can enter a home’s drinking water through both natural and man-made sources.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element, which means it can be found organically in soil, plants, air and water. In addition it can be found in many man-made applications including industrial and agricultural practices.
Once Arsenic has entered ground water supplies it can easily find its way into a home’s private well water system, thus finding its way into the water that families use for drinking and cooking.
Is my Water Safe if it has Arsenic?
Water supplies that exceed the recommended maximum contaminant level of 10 ug/L (parts per billion) for Arsenic, pose an elevated risk for health concerns to individuals who are exposed to the contaminant.
Long term exposure to arsenic has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidneys, nasal passages, liver and prostate.
Like any other water related contaminant many indicators contribute to elevated risk factors for both children and adults. Some of these can include:
- Duration of exposure to the contaminant
- Volume of water ingested by an individual
- Level of contamination in a water supply
- General health indicators including age, nutrition and lifestyle habits as well as predispositions to certain health related concerns
For additional information on Arsenic and Maine water related resources we recommend reviewing both the The EPA’s guide to Arsenic in Drinking Water as well as the State of Maine’s page on Arsenic Questions & Answers
Arsenic in Maine Water
In the Portland Press Herald September 2011 article titled Arsenic in Maine: Threat from Below, the Herald discusses the recent 4 year long, landmark U.S. Geological Survey which detected and mapped more than 11,000 Maine private wells for Arsenic levels which exceed the Federal standard of 10 parts per billion (10 ug/L).
Of those towns that ranked highest, some of the most elevated concentrations were found in Southern and Central Maine towns such as:
- Gorham, which had more than 57% of its wells testing above the federal standard
- Scarborough which tested at 48% above the federal standard
- Manchester at 62%:
- Readfield at 49%.
The Maine Geological Survey map below shows many of those so-called “hot-spots” for Arsenic found in Maine wells.
Arsenic & Maine Real Estate
Maine real estate transactions and Maine Realtors in general have always been the starting point for awareness of homeowner water supply issues. Because there are no regulations governing the safety of private drinking water supplies, like the ones that oversee water originating from public supplies, the purchase and sale of residential homes remains the front line for water related consumer awareness.
Arsenic | Up Close & Personal
Of the many Maine Realtors Ward Water works closely with, Peter Mason from Pogo Realty in Gorham has had a great deal of experience over the years dealing with well water Arsenic while working with the Real Estate clients he represents. He’s also in the unique position of dealing with Arsenic first hand, in his own home’s private water supply.
“As a real estate professional and homeowner I have firsthand experience dealing with Arsenic levels on a daily basis. My own residence is located on a private well in Gorham and my primary market area is in the Greater Portland area with high concentrations of arsenic in many private wells:
When it comes to Maine residents I can’t tell you how many homeowners think they have perfect water-the water was tested when they purchased the home and they have never had an issue or had it retested since they purchased.
As we all know limits on water tests change as research progresses. I always recommend to my clients to have their water tested before buying or selling a home. As a seller it is much easier to deal with a water quality issue before a buyer has their home under contract.
In my personal home the untreated well water supply tested at more than 15 times over the acceptable level for arsenic in Maine drinking water. I knew I had to install a system but like everyone I had a budget.
Originally we started out with a point of use system which treated all the cold water at the kitchen sink and my ice maker. This system worked great. As time went on our family grew and so did our needs, so once again I contacted Ward Water. We worked with Ward to design and install a point of entry or “whole house” system that treats all water throughout our entire home, not just at the kitchen faucet. Now my family lives worry free when it comes to our drinking water and the performance of our water system.
When selecting a water treatment company to address unsatisfactory test results I caution my clients not just to call anyone or opt for the least expensive quote. I have found in many cases if a home tests high in arsenic the type of system needed to filter the arsenic highly depends on other limits in the water tests. To treat the water properly and to have any longevity to the filtration system often the water needs to be “pre-treated” before the arsenic is filtered.
I work with Ward Water because of their experience, knowledge and solutions they’re able to provide my clients.
As we all know education can be the best solution to a problem and they do a terrific job educating my clients.