Academic Commons

Articles

Influences on domestic well water testing behavior in a Central Maine area with frequent groundwater arsenic occurrence

Flanagan, Sara V.; Marvinney, Robert G.; Zheng, Yan

In 2001 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted a new standard for arsenic (As) in drinking water of 10 μg/L, replacing the old standard of 50 μg/L. However, for the 12% of the U.S. population relying on unregulated domestic well water, including half of the population of Maine, it is solely the well owner's responsibility to test and treat the water. A mailed household survey was implemented in January 2013 in 13 towns of Central Maine with the goal of understanding the population's testing and treatment practices and the key behavior influencing factors in an area with high well-water dependency and frequent natural groundwater As. The response rate was 58.3%; 525 of 900 likely-delivered surveys to randomly selected addresses were completed. Although 78% of the households reported that their well has been tested, half of it was more than 5 years ago. Among the 58.7% who believe they have tested for As, most do not remember the results. Better educated, higher income homeowners who more recently purchased their homes are most likely to have included As when last testing. While households agree that water and As-related health risks can be severe, they feel low personal vulnerability and there are low testing norms overall. Significant predictors of including As when last testing include: having knowledge that years of exposure increases As-related health risks (risk knowledge), knowing who to contact to test well water (action knowledge), believing that regular testing does not take too much time (instrumental attitude), and having neighbors who regularly test their water (descriptive norm). Homeowners in As-affected communities have the tendency to underestimate their As risks compared to their neighbors. The reasons for this optimistic bias require further study, but low testing behaviors in this area may be due to the influence of a combination of norm, ability, and attitude factors and barriers.

Geographic Areas

Files

  • thumnail for FlanaganTest_STOTEN_2014__1_.pdf FlanaganTest_STOTEN_2014__1_.pdf application/pdf 641 KB Download File

Also Published In

Title
Science of the Total Environment
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.05.017

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Geochemistry
Published Here
October 5, 2015