Agua Solutions International, S.A. photoWater sample is taken during a pilot study in Bagaces,
Arsenic testing for private wells offered by Liberia water firm
By Jim Ryan*
Special to AMCostaRica.com - November 20, 2013
By Jim Ryan*
Special to AMCostaRica.com - November 20, 2013
Water contamination from arsenic is in the headlines almost daily. And for very good reason: It is a highly toxic compound and major public health hazard affecting at least tens of thousands of people. The fact is we really don’t know how many of our people and communities are affected by this insidious naturally occurring chemical compound because arsenic, dissolved in water, is odorless, colorless and can only be detected by actually testing the water source.
And in our company’s opinion, there has been far, far too little testing done, except in the larger population centers which are served by the Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados or a local sistema de acueductos y alcantarillados sanitarios.
In Central America, the vast majority of arsenic contamination is naturally occurring, the result of volcanic geology. Where there are volcanoes, there are associated compounds such as sulfur and arsenic, among others. For this reason the contamination can be found virtually anywhere in this country and the region. However agricultural, mining, wood treatment and electronic manufacturing processes also can add high concentrations of man-made arsenic contamination to otherwise pristine environments. Both the natural and man-made contamination are bad for one’s health.
Government institutions’ focus on population centers for testing and remediation. But a concerted national effort is needed to serve and protect not just city and town dwellers, but also the tens of thousands of people, families and businesses in the countryside who depend upon private wells and springs for their potable water. Current government programs are focused on approximately 2 percent of our nation’s population in a handful of cities and towns known to be affected.
The forgotten rural population is comprised of a wide spectrum of people and businesses. They include simple agricultural workers and their families, luxury resorts, native communities, fincas and haciendas, gated communities of largely expats, rurally based manufacturers and food processors, and others. Virtually all depend upon ground water. The only way to know if this water is contaminated with arsenic is to test it.
For this reason, Agua Solutions International, S.A. in Liberia has recently launched a private program to provide FREE ARSENIC TESTING to all private well owners. The firm is well equipped to provide this service because it provides arsenic testing equipment to the national water laboratory, it has participated with the national water laboratory in a series of pilot studies to demonstrate effective arsenic treatment methods in communities in Guanacaste; and since the firm's founding in 2005 employees always have tested for arsenic as a routine part their duties to customers establishing new water sources.
In these cases we believe that not to test for arsenic is professionally irresponsible.
The firm's current approach to arsenic testing is very different than the government’s strategy. Specifically, instead of being limited to dispatching a very small team of highly trained water technicians from the national water laboratory or small groups of university graduate students who generally go to the areas of known contamination in the population centers. Agua Solutions takes a much broader, faster and more economical grassroots approach.
The firm is inviting the thousands of private well/spring owners to collect samples, label them, and send them to its offices for testing.
It is extremely simple to properly collect and transport a water sample for arsenic testing, because unlike a microbiological sample, it does not require any special or sterile handling. In fact, the firm recommends using a common plastic water bottle and sending the samples by mail, bus or dropping them off in person.
Specific instructions are provided on the Web site at AguaSolutions.com
Test results are usually delivered to the person who sent the sample within three business days at no cost. Also, all results are treated anonymously. The firm will never divulge the identity and or arsenic level of the water samples submitted to it. So no company, resort or food processing business should fear having their water tested.
The objective is twofold. First, Agua Solutions wants to give the country’s rural population, especially those of limited economic means, a readily available means of learning if their water sources are within the ‘safe’ and legal limit for potable water in Costa Rica, which is 10 parts per billion.
A test for arsenic at a private laboratory in San José may cost as much as 60,000 colons, and the laboratory may require extra payment to travel and collect the sample. Second, Agua Solutions wants to develop a much better understanding than presently exists of the geographic extent, and degree of severity of the arsenic contamination problem, from a national perspective.
The legal upper limit of 10 parts per billion in Costa Rica is the same standard recommended by the World Health Organization as well as by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and most developed countries. Some countries and parts of the U.S.A. use a lower and stricter standard, and some countries, especially those developing countries with high arsenic levels, use a higher standard such as 50 parts per billion, or are gradually phasing in stricter standards.
Extending this service to all private well owners nationwide, regardless of their financial means, is not an inexpensive endeavor. Corporate support is sufficient for us to continue the free water testing program at least until the end of this year.
*Ryan is president of Agua Solutions International, S.A. He may be contacted at info@AguaSolutions.com or by calling 2-665-6161 / 7161.