Arsenic in groundwater in eastern New England: occurrence, controls, and human health implications

Environ Sci Technol. 2003 May 15;37(10):2075-83. doi: 10.1021/es026211g.


In eastern New England, high concentrations (greater than 10 microg/L) of arsenic occur in groundwater. Privately supplied drinking water from bedrock aquifers often has arsenic concentrations at levels of concern to human health, whereas drinking water from unconsolidated aquifers is least affected by arsenic contamination. Water from wells in metasedimentary bedrock units, primarily in Maine and New Hampshire, has the highest arsenic concentrations-nearly 30% of wells in these aquifers produce water with arsenic concentrations greater than 10 microg/L. Arsenic was also found at concentrations of 3-40 mg/kg in whole rock samples in these formations, suggesting a possible geologic source. Arsenic is most common in groundwater with high pH. High pH is related to groundwater age and possibly the presence of calcite in bedrock. Ion exchange in areas formerly inundated by seawater also may increase pH. Wells sampled twice during periods of 1-10 months have similar arsenic concentrations (slope = 0.89; r-squared = 0.97). On the basis of water-use information for the aquifers studied, about 103,000 people with private wells could have water supplies with arsenic at levels of concern (greater than 10 microg/L) for human health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Fresh Water / chemistry*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • Humans
  • New England
  • Public Health*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Supply / standards*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Arsenic