Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in rocks and soil and is used for a variety of purposes within industry and agriculture. It is also a byproduct of copper smelting, mining, and coal burning. Arsenic can combine with other elements to make chemicals used to preserve wood and to kill insects on cotton and other agricultural crops.
What is aeration/oxidation and how does it work?
Where and how does arsenic get into drinking water?
Arsenic can enter the water supply from natural deposits in the earth or from industrial and agricultural pollution. It is widely believed that naturally occurring arsenic dissolves out of certain rock formations when groundwater levels drop significantly. Some industries in the United States release thousands of pounds of arsenic into the environment every year. Once released, arsenic remains in the environment for a long time. Once on the ground or in surface water, arsenic can slowly enter groundwater. High arsenic levels in private wells may come from certain arsenic containing fertilizers used in the past or industrial waste. It may also indicate improper well construction or overuse of chemical fertilizers or herbicides in the past.
Side effects of Arsenic in drinking water
Because Arsenic is odorless and tasteless, it can go undetected and affect the human body with symptoms such as thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis, and blindness. In addition, long-term exposure to arsenic can have more chronic symptoms.
As stated by the World Health Organization, “Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, mainly through drinking of contaminated water, eating of food prepared with this water and eating food irrigated with arsenic-rich water, can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning. Skin lesions and skin cancer are the most characteristic effects.”
A study done by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2000 found “it was likely that as many as 56 million people in 25 states were
drinking water with arsenic at levels that posed a high risk of cancer.”
Removal of Arsenic from water
There are different forms of arsenic in water and you will need an accurate water test from a certified testing lab to reveal which type of arsenic is in your supply; proper sampling protocol is critical. Arsenic is typically identified as ASIII (Arsenic Three) or ASV (Arsenic Five). The appropriate water technology will be determined based on the type and level of Arsenic in your supply in combination with other elements that can adversely impact treatment options.
Removal technologies include arsenic specific media, Reverse Osmosis, coagulation and oxidation.
To remove arsenic at the point of entry into the home or building, a system containing arsenic-specific media is installed. With this approach, all the water entering the home is treated.
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For “point-of-use” drinking water, a reverse osmosis system can be installed to remove arsenic. This is often the most cost effective solution but only removes Arsenic at a single tap/location in the home.
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