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How to Remove Arsenic from Well Water

Scott Winfield
Last Updated on
by Scott Winfield

There are so many methods that allow you to safely and successfully remove arsenic from well water. Removing arsenic is crucial due to its toxicity and potentially long, or short-term problems that it can have on your health.

What Is Arsenic?

Arsenic in Water
What Is Arsenic?

Arsenic is a natural element that’s found in plants, air, rocks, and animals. Certain things cause arsenic exposure, like industrial activities and weathering minerals in the Earth.

Arsenic can be in its purest form; it’s typically found in chemical compounds. There are two types of chemical compounds.

Organic

This is typically a combination of various elements and arsenic. These are harmless and found in shellfish and fish.

Inorganic

The inorganic compound of arsenic is a harmful compound. Inorganic is a result of industrial activities and materials. Water contaminated with arsenic also creates inorganic compounds.

This is a mixture of arsenic, carbon, and other elements. It’s highly toxic and can lead to severe illness from constant exposure to low and high levels.

Health Effects of Drinking Arsenic Contaminated Water

Several health problems can result from consuming water contaminated with arsenic. It doesn’t matter if the levels aren’t very high. However, this toxic exposure can cause dire and chronic health problems. 

The scariest thing about arsenic is it’s undetectable to the senses. It’s not a particular color, so you can’t see it. It also doesn’t have a specific smell or taste. 

Even if arsenic is present in well water at high levels, you won’t know it. You must have your water tested adequately to detect it.

An array of health issues can occur from the presence of arsenic. The effects can be short-term or long-term.

Some short term problems include:

  • Neurological problems (numbness and burning in some regions of the body)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Decreased white and red blood cell production

Long term problems include:

  • Thickening of the skin
  • Skin discoloration
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Growths on feet and hands
  • Digestive problems
  • Prostate and kidney cancer
  • Skin darkening

It’s important to note that if you suffer from long-term symptoms, your skin will experience side effects first. Also, arsenic exposure symptoms can lie dormant before you experience symptoms.

Unfortunately, if you have been exposed, there is no particular treatment for arsenic poisoning. Prevention is the best way to avoid being exposed.

This includes drinking clean water and properly-getting water treated at high risk of containing arsenic.

Although there isn’t a treatment for exposure, certain supplements can help ease the effects of being exposed.

The good news is if you experience any short-term symptoms, despite how troublesome they may be, they will only be temporary. Typically, when exposed to arsenic for an extended time, health issues may be irreversible.

So, it’s vital to get checked out as soon as you notice any symptoms. Getting looked at quickly is especially important since arsenic cannot be detected unless it’s done so through proper testing.

Arsenic is not a chemical that you can smell, see, touch or taste. So if you experience symptoms that mimic arsenic poisoning, don’t wait.

You could potentially intercept any further infections or conditions from progressing.

How to Test for Arsenic in Well Water

If you own a private well, you should be getting your water tested for arsenic every 3 years.It’s best practice to keep yourself and your home safe from potential arsenic poisoning.

There are two main ways to test your well water for arsenic properly.

1. Test for Arsenic Using Water Testing Kit

A water testing kit is the easiest way to test well water for arsenic. It only takes a few simple steps.

Just take a tiny amount of the water and place a section of the testing strip inside. Please leave it in for the directed amount of time; it’s usually for many seconds.

Water Testing Kit
Water Testing Kit

A color chart will indicate whether arsenic is present. If the testing strip matches the color on the graph representing arsenic, it will be positive for its presence in the well water.

2. Private Lab for Testing Arsenic

Private Lab Testing
Private Lab Testing

 Another great way to test your well water for arsenic is through lab testing. First, take a sample to a certified Environmental Health division. They can typically be found in your community Health Department.

They will be able to provide detailed findings regarding arsenic in your water, including the present amount.

Five Methods to Remove Arsenic From Water

There are many effective ways to remove arsenic from water. These include reverse osmosis, distillation, a point-of-use water filter, etc. 

#1. Remove Arsenic by Reverse Osmosis

The way reverse osmosis works is by pushing water through a special membrane that separates the contaminants from pure water. The contaminated water and any pollutants stick to the membrane while the remaining water moves through.

Reverse Osmosis
Reverse Osmosis

Although reverse osmosis is very effective for removing arsenic and other contaminants, the process does come with a slight drawback.

Contaminants are pulled from the water, but healthy minerals are also removed. Minerals like magnesium and calcium, for example, would be taken out of the water.

You will need to consume these through your diet to replace any lost minerals.

Another downside is water could potentially become corrosive once treated through reverse osmosis. It could also alter the taste because of the minerals that are removed.

#2. Remove Arsenic from Water by Distillation

Distillation
Distillation

Distillation is a process that boils pollutants such as Arsenic from well water. It’s a kind of treatment that utilizes electricity which powers the distiller.

When well water is distilled, it is boiled to steam or a vapor state, then passed through coils to cool it off.

When water is boiled to gas or steamy form, it’s no longer able to hold or carry anything, impurities included.

Distillation is a simple process but must be done carefully, or bacteria can quickly be reintroduced if not done correctly.

However, this method of removing well water pollutants is extremely effective as it can remove 99.9% of contaminants.

It’s also ideal because it’s a process that can consistently keep well water clean. It doesn’t matter what the water’s source is, and it can always be cleaned and turned into pure water.

Lastly, distillers are also a great option because they require little to no maintenance.

#3. Point-of-Use Water Filter for Removing Arsenic

Point-of-Use Water Filter
Point-of-Use Water Filter

A point-of-use filter is a water filter that helps explicitly to remove arsenic from water. It can be installed on various faucets and is considered among the best techniques to clean arsenic from your well water.

It’s also great for removing uranium and other pollutants. 

#4. Remove Arsenic by Ion Exchange

The ion exchange process is also another method of removing arsenic from well water. It utilizes ion resin and helps to make hard water soft.

Large Scale Ion Exchange System
Ion Exchange

The ion resin catches and encloses every arsenic particle from flowing further into your well water system. The system then puts sodium and other harmless minerals in place of the arsenic.

The system then cleanses the bed of resin and further pulls out any presence of arsenic. This specific process is called regeneration. 

This is an excellent treatment method, but since it uses salt to help cleanse the water, you will need to replace the salt every 3 months.

#5. Adsorptive Media

Adsorptive media is a cleansing technology system that uses iron, zirconium, and titanium-based oxides to clean well water.

Adsorptive Media
Adsorptive Media

This filtration technology is of excellent quality and helps you save money since it takes a while before you need to replace water softeners.

Cost of Removing Arsenic From Well Water

The cost of removing arsenic from well water ultimately depends on your chosen method. Most are very cost-effective and won’t require you to break the bank to treat your water.

  • Distillation- $100-$150
  • Reverse Osmosis – $250-$4,000
  • Point-of-Use Filter- $150-$400 
  • Ion Exchange- $300-$1,200
  • Adsorptive Media- $1,500-$3,000

Costs mainly depend on which system you choose and which one you feel best suits your needs.

Most methods are effective in removing arsenic and are very affordable. However, as you can see, some would require you to have a budget in mind.

What Is the Most Inexpensive Way of Removing Arsenic From Water

The most inexpensive way to remove arsenic from water is using an Alumina filter system.

This process works by absorbing bacteria and contaminants using alumina.

Alumina filtration is a powerful method of cleaning high levels of arsenic in your well water. This particular system can also draw iron out of the water.

It works very fast and can process 10 gallons of water per minute. These systems usually only cost between $40 and $70.

Another effective and inexpensive way to remove arsenic is by using Biochar.

Engineer Bin Gao developed Biochar.

Biochar is made from hickory chips that are enhanced with carbon and iron. They are ground first, and then they are heated and put in nitrogen gas.

After that, the ground chips are treated by being placed in a saltwater bath, which helps infuse the iron.

The significant part about this technology is it’s made from a variety of biomass waste. So it helps protect the environment while remaining cost-efficient.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
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