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Sci Total Environ. 2015 Feb 1;505:1282-90. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.03.079. Epub 2014 Apr 13.

Dissemination of well water arsenic results to homeowners in Central Maine: influences on mitigation behavior and continued risks for exposure.

Author information

1
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10964, United States; City University of New York Graduate Center and School of Public Health, 365 5th Ave, New York, NY 10016, United States.
2
Maine Geological Survey, 93 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333, United States.
3
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10964, United States.
4
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10964, United States; School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens College, City University of New York, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, NY 11367, United States; City University of New York Graduate Center and School of Public Health, 365 5th Ave, New York, NY 10016, United States. Electronic address: yan.zheng@qc.cuny.edu.

Abstract

Private wells in the United States are unregulated for drinking water standards and are the homeowner's responsibility to test and treat. Testing for water quality parameters such as arsenic (As) is a crucial first step for homeowners to take protective actions. This study seeks to identify key behavioral factors influencing homeowners' decisions to take action after receiving well As test results. A January 2013 survey of central Maine households (n=386, 73% response) who were notified 3-7 years earlier that their well water contained As above 10 μg/L found that 43% of households report installing As treatment systems. Another 30% report taking other mitigation actions such as drinking bottled water because of the As, but the remaining 27% of households did not act. Well water As level appears to be a motivation for mitigation: 31% of households with well water level between 10 and 50 μg/L did not act, compared to 11% of households with well water >50 μg/L. The belief that the untreated water is not safe to drink (risk) and that reducing drinking water As would increase home value (instrumental attitude) were identified as significant predictors of mitigating As. Mitigating As exposure is associated with less worry about the As level (affective attitude), possibly because those acting to reduce exposure feel less worried about As. Use of a treatment system specifically was significantly predicted by confidence that one can maintain a treatment system, even if there are additional costs (self-efficacy). An assessment of As treatment systems used by 68 of these households with well water As >10 μg/L followed up within August-November 2013 found that 15% of treatment units failed to produce water below As 10 μg/L, suggesting that there are continued risks for exposure even after the decision is made to treat.

KEYWORDS:

Arsenic; Drinking water; Health behavior; Maine; Private well; Water treatment

PMID:
24726512
PMCID:
PMC4192113
DOI:
10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.03.079
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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