Arsenic removal from drinking water is focus of new Midwestern projects
More stringent federal standards for acceptable levels of arsenic in public drinking water go into effect next year, a prospect that has resulted in four new research projects on arsenic.
The research, funded by the Midwest Technology Assistance Center for Small Public Water Systems, will address the new standards, which will change the acceptable level of arsenic in public groundwater supplies from 50 micrograms per liter to 10 mg/l.
The center, housed at the Illinois State Water Survey, is a joint effort between that agency and the Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Chronic exposure to high arsenic concentrations can cause cancer and other diseases. Private water supplies are not subject to regulations, but high arsenic concentrations do occur in many private wells.
"We feel the work we're funding, especially on arsenic, really is making a difference," said Kent Smothers, the managing director of the center. "Such projects are critical to small systems throughout the Midwest."
The center, one of nine throughout the United States, receives annual funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and provides grants or direct funding for work by state and university researchers on key areas for small water systems.
The projects include optimizing iron addition for arsenic removal at existing facilities, examining conditions that may control arsenic release into groundwater supplies, and tracking arsenic concentration variability in relation to time and pumping procedures. A new technique for more effective arsenic removal than existing methods also is being examined, Smothers said.
Arsenic isn't the only focus of the center's research.
"Water quality at surface water intakes is being evaluated with watershed modeling," Smothers said. "Comparative performance measures being developed will improve technical, managerial, and financial capacity of small systems. Drought planning for small systems is another important area being assessed."
More information about MTAC and other Centers is available on the Web (http://mtac.sws.uiuc.edu/). The ISWS Public Service Laboratory (http://www.sws.uiuc.edu/chem/psl/) provides analyses of water quality free of charge for owners of domestic wells, Smother said.
This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.