Arsenic in Iowa's Water Sources: Surveillance, Research, Education and Policy

November 9, 2011 Iowa State Historical Building, Des Moines

Boy at a wellRecent Iowa studies have documented the widespread occurrence of arsenic in private drinking water wells. A 2006-08 statewide survey of 475 wells showed that almost half of the water samples contained arsenic; about 8% of those had arsenic concentrations at or above 10 parts per billion, EPA's drinking water standard for public water supplies. High arsenic levels were documented in 31 Iowa counties, in both shallow and deep wells. Generally, the arsenic is  naturally-occurring; the concentrations are thought to be dependent on geologic and chemical factors, and also on well construction and water use patterns. Private well owners are responsible for testing their well water and for dealing with water contamination, unlike public water supplies, which are regulated by EPA. Exposure to high concentrations of arsenic in drinking water has been linked to cancer, and cardiovascular and respiratory problems in numerous studies. 


This conference will present overviews of the toxicity of arsenic in drinking water, Iowa surveillance efforts on arsenic, current Iowa-based research on the fate and transport of arsenic in the environment, treatment options for arsenic removal/reduction in small systems, and current water quality education programs in Iowa. Researchers from Minnesota and Wisconsin will discuss efforts to address arsenic concerns in those states, and a panel of experts will respond to audience questions on what approaches might be taken in Iowa to develop public education programs on arsenic and policies to prevent or limit arsenic contamination of drinking water supplies. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to discuss this emerging issue with  academic and agency researchers and with policy makers from state government. 


The intended audience includes private well owners, well drillers, water treatment professionals, water quality researchers, public health and environmental health professionals, and the general public.