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Hazard Ranking Method for Populations Exposed to Arsenic in Private Water Supplies: Relation to Bedrock Geology

Environmental Epidemiology Group, Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, Public Health England (PHE), Chilton, Oxfordshire OX11 0RQ, UK
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK
Inorganic Geochemistry, Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, British Geological Survey, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK
Statistics, Modelling and Economics Department, PHE, 61 Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5EQ, UK
Cornwall Council, Environmental Protection Team, Public Health and Protection, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8SX, UK
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Williamson Research Centre for Molecular Environmental Science, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(12), 1490;
Received: 22 September 2017 / Revised: 10 November 2017 / Accepted: 24 November 2017 / Published: 1 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Natural Hazards and Public Health: A Systems Approach)
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Approximately one million people in the UK are served by private water supplies (PWS) where main municipal water supply system connection is not practical or where PWS is the preferred option. Chronic exposure to contaminants in PWS may have adverse effects on health. South West England is an area with elevated arsenic concentrations in groundwater and over 9000 domestic dwellings here are supplied by PWS. There remains uncertainty as to the extent of the population exposed to arsenic (As), and the factors predicting such exposure. We describe a hazard assessment model based on simplified geology with the potential to predict exposure to As in PWS. Households with a recorded PWS in Cornwall were recruited to take part in a water sampling programme from 2011 to 2013. Bedrock geologies were aggregated and classified into nine Simplified Bedrock Geological Categories (SBGC), plus a cross-cutting “mineralized” area. PWS were sampled by random selection within SBGCs and some 508 households volunteered for the study. Transformations of the data were explored to estimate the distribution of As concentrations for PWS by SBGC. Using the distribution per SBGC, we predict the proportion of dwellings that would be affected by high concentrations and rank the geologies according to hazard. Within most SBGCs, As concentrations were found to have log-normal distributions. Across these areas, the proportion of dwellings predicted to have drinking water over the prescribed concentration value (PCV) for As ranged from 0% to 20%. From these results, a pilot predictive model was developed calculating the proportion of PWS above the PCV for As and hazard ranking supports local decision making and prioritization. With further development and testing, this can help local authorities predict the number of dwellings that might fail the PCV for As, based on bedrock geology. The model presented here for Cornwall could be applied in areas with similar geologies. Application of the method requires independent validation and further groundwater-derived PWS sampling on other geological formations. View Full-Text
Keywords: arsenic; private water supplies; geology; public health risk; hazard and exposure assessment; environmental public health tracking arsenic; private water supplies; geology; public health risk; hazard and exposure assessment; environmental public health tracking

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Crabbe, H.; Fletcher, T.; Close, R.; Watts, M.J.; Ander, E.L.; Smedley, P.L.; Verlander, N.Q.; Gregory, M.; Middleton, D.R.S.; Polya, D.A.; Studden, M.; Leonardi, G.S. Hazard Ranking Method for Populations Exposed to Arsenic in Private Water Supplies: Relation to Bedrock Geology. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 1490.

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