Arsenic

What is arsenic?

Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in rocks and soil. Arsenic gets into well water through natural erosion. When underground water flows over rocks and soil that contain arsenic, the arsenic slowly dissolves into the water. As a result, some private water wells in Georgia may exceed the federal regulatory standard for arsenic in public water supplies. Arsenic occurs in bedrock and shallow wells and the amount of arsenic in well water will vary greatly from place to place. Naturally-occurring arsenic is known to exist in a region with a geological formation known as the ‘Gulf Trough’, an area of increased clay content and decreased permeability in Coastal Plain sediments. Click here for a map. Testing is the only way to determine if water contains arsenic. 
 
In addition to bacterial testing, it is also recommended that a chemical screening (W33C analysis) of well water is done every 3 years. DPH recognizes the need to keep pace with emerging public health issues around the nation and throughout Georgia. To address widespread public concern regarding drinking water quality, DPH has taken proactive measures to collaborate with our partners at UGA Extension to update the chemical screening profile for well owners in Georgia.\
 
The W33C, also known as the Private Well Chemical Test (PWCT), is the revised chemical profile for private well owners. It incorporates specific tests for arsenic and lead, in addition to the constituent analysis included in the previously recommended W-33. The recent identification of naturally occurring arsenic in water wells in South Georgia in and near the “Gulf Trough” geologic structure, combined with the heightened awareness of lead in drinking water systems in the wake of Flint River, has motivated the test profile modification. DPH believes it is essential to take steps to safeguard the health of Georgians through early detection and identification in order to reduce the potential for exposure to harmful contaminants. The PWCT (W33C) test is available through local UGA Extension Offices.
 
**Please be aware that the existing W-33 test is still the required test profile for all MOU wells serving public facilities that are permitted by DPH. 
 
 

Where can I learn more about arsenic?

Georgia Department of Public Health Fact Sheets:

Resources for Health Care Providers: 
 

How has the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) responded to known elevated arsenic levels in South GA?

The DPH, Environmental Health Section has worked extensively with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, the University of Georgia (UGA) Cooperative Extension Agency and local officials to investigate arsenic in groundwater and provide outreach and education to counties with the potential for elevated arsenic levels in private drinking wells.
 

Who can I contact for more information?

For more information about health effects of arsenic:
Georgia Department of Public Health 
Environmental Health Section, Chemical Hazards Program
(404) 657-6534 
 
For information about water testing and filtration:
Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories
University of Georgia, Cooperative Extension 
(706) 542-5350 
 
 
 
 

Page last updated 10/25/16.