heat map of probability of arsenic
The map above depicts the likelihood of arsenic in well water (green=low probability and red =probability >50%). Source.

A USGS model published in 2017 predicts 2.1 million people in the United States drink well water containing arsenic above the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level of 10 ug/L. The map above shows the probability of finding arsenic greater than 10 ug/L in wells across the continental United States. In states like Maine and New Hampshire, wells are usually drilled into hard crystalline bedrock, which tends to increase the likelihood of high arsenic. Maine and New Hampshire also have among the highest per capita reliance on private wells for drinking water in the United States (ME: 56% and NH: 46%), yet testing rates are low.

“Data to Action: A Secondary School-Based Citizen Science Project to Address Arsenic Contamination of Well Water” aims to engage students as citizen scientists and provide them with the tools and skills to test wells in their communities and analyze the data. As part of the project, students will: 

  • Use the scientific process to ask real-world questions about drinking water contamination. 
  • Collect well water samples in their communities. 
  • Analyze data and answer questions using data they, and other students in Maine and New Hampshire, collected. 
  • Use data to increase awareness about the importance of having your well tested.
  • Mobilize their communities to address issues related to private well water safety through community meetings, forums, and events. 

“Data to Action” is a 5-year NIH-NIGMS Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) to create and pilot a national model of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.