UPDATE: South Georgians urged to test private wells due to arsenic risk

Posted at 6:08 PM, Mar 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-15 14:12:31-04

UPDATE: 5:54 p.m. 3/15/2013

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL)--Get your private wells tested. That's what south Georgia health officials are saying.

They say some Georgia residents could have arsenic in their drinking water.

You cannot taste it or smell it but arsenic could be there in your well water.

"There is obviously areas where there is more than other areas," said South Health District's Dr.William Grow. "Those levels of course would therefore be elevated. The only way you're going to know if you have it in a private well is to get it tested."

You can ask your county extension agent how.

"Of course everyone knows arsenic is poison and yet in our area it's a naturally occurring chemical that the water sort of leaches it out of the soil and it's not like someone put it there," said Dr. Grow.

While this is not an immediate health concern, health officials say in-taking low doses of arsenic over a long period time can cause diseases like cancer that's why health officials urge you to take action by testing your wells every three years.

Elevated levels of arsenic found in Thomas County is what prompted the testing throughout south Georgia.

VALDOSTA, Ga. -- The Georgia Department of Public Health officials are asking residents with private wells to periodically test their water. The announcement comes after a report that shows elevated levels of arsenic in some private wells in the ten counties of Public Health’s South Health District.

“If your drinking water comes from a public or municipal water system, it is routinely tested to ensure safe arsenic levels,” stated Tad Williams, District Environmentalist. “This information is solely for those who use a private well for their water supply.”

Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in rocks and soil. When underground water flows over rocks and soil that contain arsenic, it slowly dissolves into the water. As a result, some private water wells in Georgia may exceed the federal drinking water standard set for arsenic in public water supplies.

Arsenic in drinking water can enter the body by drinking, cooking in and preparing food with water containing the substance. It is not easily absorbed by the skin and does not “stick” easily to hard surfaces or clothing; therefore, it is considered safe to use the water for cleaning, laundering, brushing teeth and bathing. Possible exposure can be reduced by using bottled water for cooking and drinking.

Exposure to elevated levels of arsenic in drinking water for a short time is not an immediate health concern. When you consume this water for cooking and drinking over a long period time it may pose a health risk. The Georgia Department of Public Health encourages residents to have all wells tested for toxic chemicals, including arsenic, every three years.

Arsenic does not affect the color, odor or taste of the water; therefore, testing is the only way to determine if the substance is present. Although private wells are not subject to the same regulatory standards as those set for public drinking water supplies, it is recommended that private well owners use these standards to guide their water treatment decisions for health purposes.

“State and local public health officials are working with residents to encourage testing and address any health concerns,” states Williams. “However, since the arsenic is naturally occurring, residents are responsible for the water quality of their well.”

Persons concerned about current arsenic exposure should consult with their health care provider for medical evaluation and testing. To prevent exposure to pets, owners should provide their pets with the same water that conforms to the standards set for humans.

Persons interested in having their well water tested should contact their local county cooperative extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or a certified private lab. Tests cost approximately $30 plus shipping. Results will show any elevated levels of arsenic and if needed recommend treatment for their water supply.

To view the full report visit For more information call the Chemical Hazards Program at 404-657-6534 or the county environmentalist at your local health department.