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Posted 8/25/06

What’s in your well water?

Scientists from the US Geological Survey (USGS) have conducted groundbreaking research on what chemicals most commonly appear in US domestic wells.

In findings released August 17, 2006, USGS said the inorganic compounds arsenic and nitrate most frequently exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standards. Arsenic exceeded levels 11 percent of the time; nitrate exceeded standards eight percent of the time. Uranium, mercury, and fluoride also exceeded standards, but at a smaller percentage, according to the report.

Organic compounds rarely exceeded drinking water standards, however, atrazine, metolochlor, simazine, methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), and chloroform were all detected in more than five percent of wells sampled.

Because the water quality of domestic wells is not federally regulated or monitored, the results provide a unique, previously nonexistent perspective on the water quality relied upon by 45 million Americans.

The study is based on a compilation of existing data from wells sampled as part of multiple USGS programs. The ongoing research will include a broader list of contaminants, from a selected set of wells, to further study geographic patterns and the co-occurrence of multiple contaminants. The findings are expected to be released in 2007.

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