When heavy metals make their way into your water supply, they can build up in your body until they reach toxic levels, causing a slew of health problems. Arsenic and lead are two of the most dangerous heavy metals. Unfortunately, both are common in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Thankfully, there are several water treatment options to remove these dangerous metals. Dierolf Plumbing and Water Treatment is here to test your water and install a system that’s right for you.

What is Arsenic and Where Does it Come From?

Arsenic is a common element found in the Earth’s crust. Because it’s fatal at high doses, arsenic is best known as a poison – either for rats or elderly men (if you recall the Cary Grant classic Arsenic and Old Lace). Accidental arsenic poisoning is rare, but low levels of exposure do build up over time, which can lead to health problems.

According to the American Cancer Society, arsenic is considered a carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency, US National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Arsenic can cause lung cancer, bladder cancer, and skin cancer, and may be linked to kidney, liver, and prostate cancer. Repeated exposure to arsenic can damage your kidneys, liver, or skin. It may also lead to a shortage of white and red blood cells, leaving you tired and prone to infections.

There are several ways that arsenic can enter the water supply, ranging from natural erosion to pollution. Arsenic can be found in agricultural runoff from some fertilizers or pesticides, as well as industrial runoff from electronics factories.

Public water is tested for arsenic. If you have a private well, it is your responsibility to have your water tested annually. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic is 10 parts per billion. You cannot see, taste, or smell arsenic, which makes routine testing even more important. Don’t wait until you start feeling unwell to realize you have a problem!

Arsenic in Southeastern Pennsylvania

Ten years ago, the United States Geological Society (USGS) tested 5,000 wells across Pennsylvania for arsenic and found that 8% of wells had more than the MCL of 10 ppb. Another 12% had at least 4 ppb – technically acceptable but still concerning.

In the early 2000’s, the USGS studied arsenic levels in Southeastern Pennsylvania due to complaints right here in Gilbertsville. They found that over 10% of wells tested had higher than acceptable arsenic levels. That’s higher than the state average! Our area is part of the Newark Basin, which includes eroding rock formations that contain arsenic. Arsenic even used to be mined in Berks County. While your well may be fine, it’s a very good idea to get it checked as arsenic is a concern in our area.

Arsenic 3 versus Arsenic 5

There are two types of arsenic, arsenic 3 and arsenic 5. While both are harmful, arsenic 3 is more toxic, harder to remove, and more common. Arsenic 3 must usually be converted to arsenic 5 before it can be removed, adding an extra pre-treatment step.

Water chemistry is complex. Instead of testing only for arsenic, your water should be analyzed before deciding on an arsenic removal plan. The levels of other metals and contaminants in your water will influence the best course of treatment.

Water Treatment Options to Remove Arsenic

There are several options to remove arsenic from your water. For a more comprehensive look at the pros and cons of each system, check out our previous article: Water Purification Systems: What is Right For You?

Boiling water does not remove arsenic and will actually increase its concentration, so it is not an acceptable substitute for a water purification system.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse Osmosis is the most cost-effective way to treat arsenic and can remove up to 95% of arsenic 5. Pretreatment to oxidize arsenic 3 to arsenic 5 is required. Most Reverse Osmosis systems are point of use (POU), meaning they are installed on a single faucet – typically your kitchen sink. Arsenic is not absorbed through the skin, so it’s fine to shower in untreated water. But it’s not a good idea to brush your teeth with it, so you need to consider whether you are fine with a single drinkable water source. Most point of use systems only treat a few gallons of water per day. Larger point of entry (POE) systems can be installed for your entire house, but depending on your water chemistry they may corrode your pipes and increase the chance of lead in your water.

Ion Exchange

Ion Exchange systems are customized according to your water composition, so you’ll need a comprehensive water test before installation. Arsenic 3 must be converted to arsenic 5 or it will not be removed. Ion Exchange systems are a point of entry system and treat all the water in your home. However, if not maintained properly there is a chance that arsenic could be released back into your water supply. This process may also corrode your pipes, adding lead to your water.

Ion Exchange

Iron Oxide Filters can be used to supplement Reverse Osmosis systems and remove additional arsenic, especially arsenic 3. They can be installed as either point of use or point of entry. However, filters must be changed regularly, adding costs and inconvenience.


Arsenic can build up in your body over time and cause serious health issues. This is why it is so important to have your water tested annually, especially if it comes from a private well. The good news is that there are several options available to purify your water. Give Dierolf Plumbing and Water Treatment a call today to discuss the best solution.

Get Diagnosed By A

water expert today