Spatial pattern of groundwater arsenic occurrence and association with bedrock geology in greater Augusta, Maine

Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Apr 15;43(8):2714-9. doi: 10.1021/es803141m.


In New England, groundwater arsenic occurrence has been linked to bedrock geology on regional scales. To ascertain and quantify this linkage at intermediate (10(0)-10(1) km) scales, 790 groundwater samples from fractured bedrock aquifers in the greater Augusta, Maine area are analyzed, and 31% of the sampled wells have arsenic concentrations >10 microg/L. The probability of [As] exceeding 10 microg/L mapped by indicator kriging is highest in Silurian pelite-sandstone and pelite-limestone units (approximately 40%). This probability differs significantly (p < 0.001) from those in the Silurian-Ordovician sandstone (24%),the Devonian granite (15%), and the Ordovician-Cambrian volcanic rocks (9%). The spatial pattern of groundwater arsenic distribution resembles the bedrock map. Thus, bedrock geology is associated with arsenic occurrence in fractured bedrock aquifers of the study area at intermediate scales relevant to water resources planning. The arsenic exceedance rate for each rock unit is considered robust because low, medium, and high arsenic occurrences in four cluster areas (3-20 km2) with a low sampling density of 1-6 wells per km2 are comparable to those with a greater density of 5-42 wells per km2. About 12,000 people (21% of the population) in the greater Augusta area (approximately 1135 km2) are at risk of exposure to >10 microg/L arsenic in groundwater.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Maine
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Arsenic