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Keywords:

  • public health;
  • water quality;
  • drinking water;
  • arsenic;
  • metals

ABSTRACT: Churchill County, Nevada, has approximately 23,000 residents, among whom an estimated 13,500 relied on private wells for water supply in 2002. This study examined exposure to arsenic in water supplies among residents with private domestic wells and factors related to householder choice to consume tap water. It compared opinions and concerns about water quality with consumption habits and observed concentrations from tap water samples. The results from 351 households indicated that a majority (75 percent) of respondents consumed tap water and that a minority (38 percent) applied treatment. Approximately 66 percent of those who consumed tap water were exposed to concentrations of arsenic that exceeded 10 ppb. Water consumption was related to application of treatment. Among 98 respondents who were not at all concerned about the health effects of aqueous arsenic, 59 (60 percent) reported consuming tap water with concentrations of arsenic exceeding 10 ppb. Conversely, among 86 respondents who were highly concerned about arsenic, 33 (37 percent) consumed tap water with concentrations of arsenic exceeding 10 ppb. Results from a national sampling effort showed that 620 of 5,304 private wells sampled (11.7 percent) had arsenic concentrations above 10 ppb. The paradox of awareness of arsenic in water supplies coupled with consumption of aqueous arsenic in concentrations greater than 10 ppb may be common in other parts of the nation. Enhanced educational efforts, especially related to tap water sampling and explanations of efficacy of available treatment, may be useful means of reducing exposure through private water supplies.