Should you be concerned about arsenic in your well water?
Yes. EVERYONE should test their well water for arsenic and other contaminants.
If you are a Private Well Owner and your water test shows you have arsenic, read this page to learn about water treatment options. Then be sure to talk with a professional about what option makes sense for you.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Read the section below, What should you do if you have arsenic in your well water?, to learn about options for making your water safe to drink.
Get What Your Family Needs
- Talk with your state private drinking water well program, your state health department or your local health department for more information on removing arsenic.
- If you choose to install a treatment system, contact a water treatment professional to choose a system that will work for you and your budget.
- If you have young children, consider getting a system that treats water at every faucet in the house to avoid having your kids drink untreated water while brushing teeth, bathing or showering.
- Talk with your water treatment professional so that you know how your system works.
- Make a plan for how you'll take care of your treatment system.
- Once your treatment system is running, test your water again to make sure it's working to remove arsenic, and be sure to test your water every year.
Installing an Arsenic Treatment SystemWatch these videos about arsenic's health effects, testing water for arsenic, and installing an arsenic treatment system. The information on this site is relevant to private well owners everywhere.
Use Be Well Informed With Your Test Results
The Be Well Informed online tool will help you interpret your water testing results. Enter the results of your water test into the tool and it will provide an easy-to-understand explanation of water treatment options and health risks based on your unique water characteristics. You don't need to live in New Hampshire to use this tool.
A Summary of Arsenic Levels
- 0 ppb EPA's Maximum Contaminant Level GOAL for arsenic in public water (not enforced).
- 2 ppb Average arsenic levels in U.S. drinking water.
- 5 ppb New Jersey's Maximum Contaminant Level (enforced). More cautious than federal limits.
- 10 ppb EPA's Maximum Contaminant Level (enforced). Set in 2001 based on cost and feasibility.
- 1000-3000 ppb fatal levels of arsenic exposure.
Is There Regulation of Arsenic in Water?
Yes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires public water systems to reduce arsenic levels in water to 10 parts per billion. Federal law does not require private well owners to test or treat their water for contaminants, although local or state requirements may exist where you live. It is your responsibility to learn what is in your water and take steps to be sure your water is safe to drink.
What should you do if you have arsenic in your well water?
If your water test shows that your well water has arsenic above 10 parts per billion:
For the short-term, switch to bottled water right away for:
- Making juices, coffee, and tea
- Mixing baby formula
until you are able to set up a more permanent arsenic removal system.
- While using a carbon-based water pitcher filter seems like an easy option, most do not remove arsenic, and those that do should be certified by the National Sanitation Foundation.
- Boiling your water doesn't remove arsenic.
Talk to a water treatment professional about long-term solutions:
- Connecting your house to a public water supply. With this option, your water is checked and treated for arsenic and other contaminants by your town or city. This process could be costly, though, and not all homes can be linked to public water.
- Installing a new well or deepening your well. This option could give you better water quality, but it can also be costly. You may not know until the well has been drilled if the water has arsenic in it, and you may still need an arsenic treatment system. Find out about arsenic levels in groundwater in your area if this is an option you are considering.
- Installing a water treatment system. There are two types of arsenic water treatment systems, described below. No matter what option you choose, make sure that it carries a seal from the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). Treatment systems without the NSF seal may not lower the amount of arsenic in your water by as much as you'd hoped. Ask a water treatment professional to show you the NSF seal on the system before you buy it, or look up the system you're thinking about on the NSF website and scroll down to arsenic.
The two types of systems are:
Point of Entry Treatment - This option treats all of the water coming out of all of the taps in your house. These systems can be costly, but they are the best treatment option for getting arsenic out of your water. Point of Entry treatment systems are good for homes with children, since kids may forget to only drink from one faucet.
Point of Use Treatment - This option treats the water at just one tap - often at the kitchen sink. This is a less expensive option, but you would only be able to drink and cook using water from one tap.
Wellowner.org also provides helpful information on well maintenance and treatment.
Types of Treatment Technologies
Below are the different types of treatment systems that can be installed in your home to remove arsenic. The type you need depends on your unique water chemistry. Talk to a water treatment professional to find out what works for you and your family.
- Point of Use Adsorption Cartridge
- Point of Use Reverse Osmosis
- Point of Entry (Whole House) Iron Particle Filtration
- Point of Entry (Whole House) Adsorption
- Point of Entry (Whole House) Anion Exchange and Neutralizer
What's next after you install an arsenic treatment system?
Now that you've installed a system, conduct a second arsenic test to make sure the treatment is working. You should test the water from your tap each year to make sure the system is still removing arsenic. Follow the directions to maintain your water treatment system, and contact a water treatment professional if you're worried that it's not working properly.
"If there's arsenic in your well water, you need to take action now. Research your options for getting your water's arsenic levels as low as possible. Choose an option that makes sense for your home, your budget, and your unique water. For most households, a fairly inexpensive system installed under your kitchen sink will work fine to get arsenic out of your drinking water." Cynthia Klevens, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services