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Thursday, 08 October 2015 08:48

Stanford Earth scientist Scott Fendorf recently worked with the Orange County Water District to investigate how arsenic was getting into the water supply. Fendorf, the Huffington Family Professor in Earth Sciences and a senior fellow by courtesy at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and his team demonstrated in a new study that recycled water percolating into underground storage aquifers in Southern California picked up trace amounts of arsenic because the water was too pure. The chemical is a naturally occurring element that can cause organ failure and cancer in humans with prolonged exposure above established health thresholds.

The research was recently featured online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The findings highlight the potential mobilization of arsenic in purified recycled water, which was a poorly understood aspect of groundwater recharge prior to the Stanford study.

The finding has implications beyond California, as more communities are increasingly tapping into and actively managing their groundwater resources to combat drought and dwindling water supplies. The problem first came to light when the Orange County Water District (OCWD) in Fountain Valley, Calif., noticed that recycled wastewater that had undergone a rigorous purification process showed temporary, low-level increases in arsenic after it percolated into soils and sediments from recharge basins, which are man-made surface ponds, into underground storage aquifers.

Orange County differs from most communities in that it purifies treated wastewater instead of...Read More...