Drinking water from Swale Brook Well in Tunkhannock Borough contained 8 ppb (parts per billion, or micrograms per liter) of arsenic in July of 2018, but officials have ensured that this number should not cause concern for residents.
Presently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s maximum contaminant level for arsenic stands at 10 ppb.
The remaining three entry points for drinking water in Tunkhannock, which includes Hill Wells 1 and 2 and Ravine Well in Tunkhannock Township, as well as Sunnyside Well in Tunkhannock Borough, had levels of 0 ppb of arsenic in 2018.
“Since 8 ppb is less than the maximum contaminant level of 10 pbb, there is no cause for concern and no reason for consumers to seek out alternative sources of water,” said Colleen Connolly, Pennsylvania DEP spokesperson.
At Swale Brook Well, erosion of natural deposits, runoff from orchards, and runoff from glass and electronics production waste resulted in arsenic contamination.
According to the Tunkhannock Borough Municipal Authority’s 2018 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report, the EPA’s standard for arsenic “balances the current understanding of arsenic’s possible health effects against the costs of removing arsenic from drinking water.”
Since high concentrations of arsenic have been linked to cancer and other health effects such as skin damage and circulatory problems, the EPA continues to research the effects of low concentrations of arsenic, according to the report.
“It is the responsibility of all public water systems to ensure that the water being supplied to their customers meets both the primary and secondary maximum contaminant levels,” Connolly explained.
Roger Hadsall, manager for the TBMA, said water in Tunkhannock gets monitored for arsenic every three years.
“They allow us to do that because we’re below the levels that would trigger increased monitoring for arsenic,” he said. The next round of monitoring for arsenic is expected in 2021.
So far, Tunkhannock has never underwent arsenic removal with its drinking water.
“If we found that we had high levels, we would have to examine how to remove it, and what would be the most cost-effective way to remove arsenic and deal with resulting concentrate,” Hadsall said.
To view the 2018 report from the TBMA, visit tunkhannockma.org.