According to the UN, access to water is a basic need and a human right. When humans lack clean water, their social, economic, and health status are endangered. Waterborne diseases which are easily preventable become their order of the day. Crops, livestock, and hygiene standards are also affected.
To save themselves from the ravaging effects of water shortage, many people dig wells to access groundwater. They dig through the earth’s crust to reach an underground aquifer. Unfortunately, the water drawn from these sources may be contaminated with arsenic from the bedrock. Ingesting high levels of this substance leads to various health complications, both temporary and chronic.
Arsenic is a natural element deposited in the earth’s crust. It is found in pure form or together with minerals like sulfur and other metals. Natural reactions like rock weathering and human activities like mining or agro-pesticide use can leave arsenic residuals in our environment. The substance has no color, smell, or taste when dissolved in water, making it impossible to detect. Only laboratory analysis can reveal the presence and amount of arsenic in your groundwater.
There are high levels of arsenic deposited in the bedrock in some states across the US. The substance contaminates the water aquifers beneath us, ending up in well water. Due to human activity, rocks, soil, and unsafe agricultural practices expose the environment to arsenic. When it rains, the substance finds its way through the ground and contaminates our wells.
The maximum allowed amount of arsenic in safe drinking water is 10PPB. Municipal water suppliers follow US Environmental Protection Agency standards and maintain that level. Unfortunately, when you rely on your private water well, the chances of getting arsenic concentrated water are high. The EPA has no mandate over private wells, and it is up to you to maintain safety standards. You should have your groundwater tested at least once a year or regularly if your area has a high arsenic level history.
You should take a sample of your well water to a private or government-operated laboratory for your safety. A certified technician will test it and give a detailed report of the contaminants in your well, including arsenic.
You can alternatively buy a self-testing kit and personally test your groundwater. It should come with an instructional manual to guide you in the process. By submerging a testing strip in a water sample, you will get a color code confirming or negating the presence of arsenic. Though helpful, it is not an accurate method as compared to a science laboratory.
It is advisable to be extra careful when shopping for a well water filtration system. This is because not all water filtration systems can remove arsenic. Below are some suitable options you can consider.
The most effective method to remove arsenic from your well water is reverse osmosis. Featuring a reverse osmosis membrane and several filters, the system can remove up to 99% of the arsenic from water. Some models can be installed at the main supply line to your home to provide pure water for the whole household. Reverse osmosis filters not only arsenic but also all debris sizes, metals, bacteria, among others.
Using an ion exchange resin, arsenic particles in water are trapped and prevented from flowing towards your outlet. The arsenic turns into a non-toxic level of sodium. When the resin bed is full, the system flushes out arsenic particles in a process called regeneration. This type of well water filtration system is costly depending on complexity. The system also needs occasional refilling with salt translating to maintenance costs.
Distillation is an excellent method to purify your drinking water if you don’t need to clean the entire water supply. Water distillers are portable and don’t need to be installed at the main supply line. You place the equipment on a table with water in the chamber and power it to start the process. The water boils, forming vapor that passes through a condenser to cool as purified water. Distilled water is purified with virtually no traces of impurities.
Arsenic is a highly toxic substance, and long-term exposure leads to serious health complications. The World Health Organization classifies arsenic as a cause of several types of cancer, cardiovascular and cognitive disorders, and diabetes. It can also cause conditions like numbness in the hands and feet or death. To be safe, we should take precautions and follow the EPA guidelines on safe drinking water.
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