Drinking water supplies are only contaminated by human activity, such as pesticide run-off from farms and chemical spills.
Some naturally occurring contaminants exist in Nova Scotia´s rock and soil, and can dissolve into our water supply making it unsafe to drink.
Drinking water comes from freshwater lakes, streams, and underground aquifers. These drinking water sources may contain naturally occurring substances, some of which are harmful to humans.
What are some of the naturally-occurring contaminants?
Many species of microorganisms - viruses, bacteria, and protozoa - often thrive in fresh water and can make it unsafe for drinking. Water can contain decaying vegetation, causing humic and fulvic acids. Rock formations in the earth can leach naturally occurring substances like arsenic, cadmium, iron, manganese, and uranium into water. Acidic precipitation is making water more corrosive, increasing its ability to leach contaminants from rocks and metallic surfaces.
Should I be concerned about arsenic in my well water?
Yes, depending on where you live in Nova Scotia. The presence of low levels of arsenic, a known human carcinogen, in drinking water from private wells is a matter of concern. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that is widely distributed in the Earth´s crust and is present in trace amounts in all living matter. Arsenic is both tasteless and odorless, so consumers are unable to detect its presence in their drinking water. Health Canada has established a guideline of 10 ug/L for arsenic in drinking water. This guideline is currently under review.
Due to the geological structure of Nova Scotia, certain areas are more susceptible to arsenic contamination. However, you should test your water no matter where you live. Risk maps are available which indicate the areas of Nova Scotia which are more susceptible to arsenic contamination. Treatment options are available if your water test results are above the maximum acceptable level of arsenic.
Should I be concerned about uranium in my well water?
Yes, depending on where you live in Nova Scotia. Uranium is a common element that exists naturally in soil and rock throughout the world. It gets into drinking water when groundwater dissolves minerals that contain uranium. Elevated levels of uranium are more likely to be found in drilled wells, as opposed to dug wells or surface water. Uranium is a health risk, as it affects the kidneys. Health Canada has established a guideline of 0.02 milligrams per litre for uranium in drinking water.
Due to the geological structure of our province, certain areas of Nova Scotia are more susceptible to uranium contamination. However, you should test your water no matter where you live. Risk maps are available which indicate the areas of Nova Scotia which are more susceptible to uranium contamination. Treatment options are available if your water test results are above the maximum acceptable level of uranium.