The new standards will change the acceptable level of arsenic in public groundwater supplies from 50 micrograms per liter to 10 mg/l and the research, funded by the Midwest Technology Assistance Center for Small Public Water Systems, will focus on removing arsenic from drinking water in line with the revised guidelines.

Chronic exposure to high arsenic concentrations can cause cancer and other diseases. Private water supplies are not subject to regulations, but high arsenic concentrations do occur in many private wells.

We feel the work we’re funding, especially on arsenic, really is making a difference, said Kent Smothers, the managing director of the Midwest Technology Assistance Center. Such projects are critical to small systems throughout the Midwest.

The center, one of nine throughout the US, receives annual funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency and provides grants or direct funding for work by state and university researchers on key areas for small water systems.

The projects include optimizing iron addition for arsenic removal at existing facilities, examining conditions that may control arsenic release into groundwater supplies, and tracking arsenic concentration variability in relation to time and pumping procedures. A new technique for more effective arsenic removal than existing methods also is being examined, Smothers said.

Arsenic isn’t the only focus of the center’s research, however, as the center will also assess small systems’ technical, managerial and financial capacity, and drought planning.