On July 3, Centreville notified its citizens for the second time in just over six months about arsenic levels above drinking water standards in the town’s supply. Students in Centreville schools will be drinking bottled water when they head back to classes. Some residential wells also are failing tests for maximum contaminant levels of the substance.
Stricter standards combined with relatively high arsenic levels in area water sources mean that arsenic levels continue to be an issue, although opinions vary as to how big a health concern exists. Long term exposure to arsenic in drinking water causes adverse health effects such as cancer, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment. In 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reduced the drinking water maximum contaminant level allowed for arsenic from 50ppb to 10ppb. In 2006, Maryland followed suit and began requiring public water systems to adhere to the new standard.
Because of elevated arsenic levels in the Aquia aquifer used by some Queen Anne’s County water systems, several towns had to make moves to comply. In Queenstown where arsenic levels were averaging between 12 and 15ppb, water from a new well with lower arsenic is being blended with an older well with higher arsenic in order to meet the standard. In Sudlersville, middle school students were drinking bottled water in June of 2007 until the school could switch to treated water from another source. In Centreville, arsenic levels in the untreated water supply are between 20-25ppb, and testing results in 2006 and 2007 were above the standard. The town moved to have its water supplied solely by two wells equipped with arsenic removal systems to bring the levels within standard. Until water testing at Queen Anne’s County High School regularly shows results below the arsenic standard, water fountains will be disconnected, and students will drink bottled water.