Air Quality Program

Arsenic in Anchorage Private Drinking Water Wells

Studies performed by the Department of Health and Human Services have shown that in some areas of the Municipality arsenic levels may exceed EPA health guidelines of 10 parts per billion (ppb).

  •  A DHHS survey of 434 private wells measured arsenic concentrations ranging from none detected to 89 parts per billion (ppb.)
  •  Elevated levels of arsenic were most common in the western portions of Anchorage.
  •  Elevated arsenic is uncommon in wells on the Anchorage Hillside, in Chugiak/Eagle River, and in Girdwood

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Sources of Arsenic in Anchorage's Groundwater

  • Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in some soils and bedrock.
  • Over time, arsenic-bearing minerals are weathered and the dissolved arsenic can find its way into groundwater and surface waters.
  • This process appears to be responsible for the elevated levels of arsenic found in groundwater that serves some wells in Anchorage.

Health Concerns Posed by Arsenic in Drinking Water

  • The current EPA limit for arsenic is 10 ppb. EPA studies suggest that long-term consumption of water with arsenic above this level may increase the risks of developing certain cancers.
  • Health concerns stem from the ingestion of water with elevated arsenic; other uses of water such as bathing and clothes washing are considered safe.
  • EPA standards do not apply to private wells but they can be used to gauge the relative quality of drinking water
  • Homeowners with concerns about arsenic levels in their wells should collect a sample for testing at a State of Alaska-certified laboratory.

Treatment and Removal of Arsenic From Drinking Water

  • Point-of-use filters treat water at a single location, most often the kitchen tap.
  • Point-of-entry filters treat all of the water entering a home.
  • Most households will find a point-of-use filter adequate for their needs.
  • A variety of technologies are used in products available commercially. User's should ensure that any filter is approved by NSF International (NSF) for arsenic removal.

Available Reports and Brochures

Partial funding for this project was through the Alaska State Legislature. Technical laboratory expertise was provided by the UAA ASET Lab and Engineering Department.