Arsenic in North Carolina: Public Health Implications

Sanders, A.P., Messier, K.P., Shehee, M., Rudo, K., Serre, M.L. & Fry, R.C. (2011). Arsenic
in North Carolina: Public health implications. Environment International, 38(1), 10-16.


Arsenic is a known human carcinogen and relevant environmental contaminant in drinking water systems. We set out to comprehensively examine statewide arsenic trends and identify areas of public health concern. Specifically, arsenic trends in North Carolina private wells were evaluated over an eleven-year period using the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services database for private domestic well waters. We
geocoded over 63,000 domestic well measurements by applying a novel geocoding algorithm and error validation scheme. Arsenic measurements and geographical coordinates for database entries were mapped using Geographic Information System techniques. Furthermore, we employed a Bayesian Maximum Entropy(BME) geostatistical framework, which accounts for geocoding error to better estimate arsenic values across
the state and identify trends for unmonitored locations. Of the approximately 63,000 monitored wells, 7712 showed detectable arsenic concentrations that ranged between 1 and 806 μg/L. Additionally, 1436 well samples exceeded the EPA drinking water standard. We reveal counties of concern and demonstrate a historical pattern of elevated arsenic in some counties, particularly those located along the Carolina terrane(Carolina slate belt). We analyzed these data in the context of populations using private well water and
identify counties for targeted monitoring, such as Stanly and Union Counties. By spatiotemporally mapping these data, our BME estimate revealed arsenic trends at unmonitored locations within counties and better predicted well concentrations when compared to the classical kriging method. This study reveals relevant information on the location of arsenic-contaminated private domestic wells in North Carolina and indicates
potential areas at increased risk for adverse health outcomes.


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