March 2011

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has recently released a study, which indicates that levels of naturally occurring arsenic and uranium exceed drinking water standards in some private bedrock drinking water wells in central and northeastern Massachusetts. The Town of Burlington is on the USGS list of communities that may be impacted by slightly elevated levels of naturally occurring uranium and/or arsenic in private bedrock drinking water wells.  State officials are working with USGS to develop resources that will help private well users determine whether their water meets federal safety standards, and provide guidance on water testing and treatment if it does not.

“Based on information available on water testing results, the probability that an individual’s well poses an immediate health concern is low,” said Commissioner John Auerbach of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH).  “Based on the MDPH companion effort testing for arsenic and uranium in urine, no immediate public health threat is present, and households do not need to stop using their water. At the same time, the USGS report indicates that it is prudent for private well owners to have their wells tested.”

The Town of Burlington public water supply wells that serve residences are routinely monitored for arsenic and uranium and are in compliance with federal and state standards.  Although private wells are not subject to the same regulatory standards as those set for public drinking-water supplies, it is recommended for health purposes that private well owners use these standards to guide their treatment decisions. Massachusetts officials strongly recommend that the owners have their wells tested and treat their water if necessary.

Well users can determine the probability of their wells being contaminated by arsenic or uranium by looking at maps in the study report.  Click on links below for maps. Residents with private drinking water wells seeking more information can visit the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection website at
or contact the Burlington Board of Health at 781-270-1955.