The University Record, January 18, 1999

Flint unit plays key role in identifying arsenic in water sources

By Donna L. Ullrich

U-M-Flint’s Center for Applied Environmental Research (CAER) was a key partner in the identification and mapping of concentrations of arsenic, nitrate and chloride in the water supply of Oakland County. Information was released last week in fact sheets prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Oakland County Health Division and CAER.

The fact sheets detail the source of each contaminant, where it occurs and the concerns raised by its presence. A countywide fact sheet summarizes the three contaminants and maps their concentrations.

Twenty-five fact sheets showing greater detail by township or municipality also were produced. The study was prompted more than a year ago over concerns about arsenic in well water, according to CAER Director Richard Hill-Rowley. The distribution of arsenic, nitrate and chloride were mapped using historical water quality data obtained from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Hill-Rowley said the results indicated that about 1 percent of sampled wells had arsenic or nitrate concentrations greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL). About 5 percent of the wells sampled for chloride exceeded the agency’s secondary MCL. He said the information should help residents evaluate the need for testing their own water supplies.

The fact sheets are available on the Web at or in hard copy from the Oakland County Health Division, (248) 858-1312.

CAER managed the data collection and creation of the maps used in the fact sheets. The maps were prepared using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology available at the center. Hill-Rowley said he expects that other counties may find this mapping service of value. Hill-Rowley and Center Geoprocessing Specialist Matt Malone co-authored the series of fact sheets with Geological Survey GIS specialist Steve Aichele.

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