SEGH Articles

Environmental Public Health Tracking Proof of Concept Study: hazard tracking in private drinking water supplies

01 October 2011
The Health Protection Agency undertook a proof of concept study to appraise the chemical quality of private drinking water supplies in East Cornwall and map their metal and mineral content relative to geological formation.

 

The HPA's Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental hazards (CRCE) has embarked on one of the first studies of its kind in the UK - to map the levels of metals and minerals present in geological formations and their potential effect on the quality of private drinking water supplies.

The team, working in collaboration with colleagues from Cornwall Council and the British Geological Survey (BGS), identified, collected and analysed samples from approximately 250 homes with private drinking water supplies in East Cornwall.

The study aimed to improve the knowledge of the quality of private drinking water supplies in the area and increase the understanding of where high levels of naturally occurring metal and minerals are present in the ground. The data collected will be used to map levels and their potential distribution.

Prior to the ground work, BGS identified key geological formations in the sampling area to identify areas with the potential for high yields of metals and minerals in underground water supplies.  The study will help identify where levels of metals and minerals are highest in specific geological formations, this will inform where future water tests would be most appropriate and where resources could be targeted most effectively.  If any private water supplies are found to have levels above the statutory limits, special treatment at the source will be advised to reduce the levels and make the water safe to drink.  If successful, the study could be rolled out to help other local councils meet their duty under the Private Water Supply Regulations across the country.

The study consists of several stages through design, scoping and delivery and involved four weeks of intensive logistical planning and contact with residents to arrange appointments and to gain access to their private water supply for sampling.  Sampling int he Spring involved a 17 day programme with BGS visiting over 250 homes and taking around 300 water samples from borehole supplies across East Cornwall. Samples were analysed for around 60 specific metals and minerals, the outcomes will be reviewed and results fed back.

When the results of the analyses are available (September 2011) they will be used to inform environmental and public health assessments and form the basis for modelling population risk.

Becky Close: Environmental Public Health Scientist, Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards,

Health Protection Agency.  Rebecca.Close@hpa.org.uk

Keep up to date

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Agro-ecological suitability assessment of Chinese Medicinal Yam under future climate change 2019-10-15

    Abstract

    Chinese Medicinal Yam (CMY) has been prescribed as medicinal food for thousand years in China by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners. Its medical benefits include nourishing the stomach and spleen to improve digestion, replenishing lung and kidney, etc., according to the TCM literature. As living standard rises and public health awareness improves in recent years, the potential medicinal benefits of CMY have attracted increasing attention in China. It has been found that the observed climate change in last several decades, together with the change in economic structure, has driven significant shift in the pattern of the traditional CMY planting areas. To identify suitable planting area for CMY in the near future is critical for ensuring the quality and supply quantity of CMY, guiding the layout of CMY industry, and safeguarding the sustainable development of CMY resources for public health. In this study, we first collect 30-year records of CMY varieties and their corresponding phenology and agro-meteorological observations. We then consolidate these data and use them to enrich and update the eco-physiological parameters of CMY in the agro-ecological zone (AEZ) model. The updated CMY varieties and AEZ model are validated using the historical planting area and production under observed climate conditions. After the successful validation, we use the updated AEZ model to simulate the potential yield of CMY and identify the suitable planting regions under future climate projections in China. This study shows that regions with high ecological similarity to the genuine and core producing areas of CMY mainly distribute in eastern Henan, southeastern Hebei, and western Shandong. The climate suitability of these areas will be improved due to global warming in the next 50 years, and therefore, they will continue to be the most suitable CMY planting regions.

  • Application of stable isotopes and dissolved ions for monitoring landfill leachate contamination 2019-10-15

    Abstract

    We evaluated groundwater contamination by landfill leachate at a municipal landfill and characterized isotopic and hydrogeochemical evidence of the degradation and natural attenuation of buried organic matter at the study site. Dissolved ion content was generally much higher in the leachate than in the surrounding groundwater. The leachate was characterized by highly elevated bicarbonate and ammonium levels and a lack of nitrate and sulfate, indicating generation under anoxic conditions. Leachate δD and δ13CDIC values were much higher than those of the surrounding groundwater; some groundwater samples near the landfill showed a significant contamination by the leachate plume. Hydrochemical characteristics of the groundwater suggest that aquifer geology in the study area plays a key role in controlling the natural attenuation of leachate plumes in this oxygen-limited environment.

  • Lead transfer into the vegetation layer growing naturally in a Pb-contaminated site 2019-10-10

    Abstract

    The lead was one of the main elements in the glazes used to colour ceramic tiles. Due to its presence, ceramic sludge has been a source of environmental pollution since this dangerous waste has been often spread into the soil without any measures of pollution control. These contaminated sites are often located close to industrial sites in the peri-urban areas, thus representing a considerable hazard to the human and ecosystem health. In this study, we investigated the lead transfer into the vegetation layer (Phragmites australis, Salix alba and Sambucus nigra) growing naturally along a Pb-contaminated ditch bank. The analysis showed a different lead accumulation among the species and their plant tissues. Salix trees were not affected by the Pb contamination, possibly because their roots mainly develop below the contaminated deposit. Differently, Sambucus accumulated high concentrations of lead in all plant tissues and fruits, representing a potential source of biomagnification. Phragmites accumulated large amounts of lead in the rhizomes and, considering its homogeneous distribution on the site, was used to map the contamination. Analysing the Pb concentration within plant tissues, we got at the same time information about the spread, the history of the contamination and the relative risks. Finally, we discussed the role of natural recolonizing plants for the soil pollution mitigation and their capacity on decreasing soil erosion and water run-off.