Aluminum is the third most common element that makes up about eight percent of the Earth’s surface ; so, it is not surprising that it can show up in groundwater . While aluminum is naturally occurring , there are a variety of other ways it can work its way into our drinking water supplies . Aluminum can be introduced into well water inadvertently through the use of concrete . If the concrete casing is not properly sealed , the concrete , which is typically made of five percent aluminum , can leach aluminum into the water supply. This phenomenon occurs in new wells in which the concrete is not fully cured ; so over time , the aluminum levels should dissipate .
The more common way for aluminum to be present in drinking water sources is the use of aluminum sulfate as a water treatment technique known as coagulation. Essentially, a coagulant will allow smaller particles to clump together to form larger particles that can be removed by settling out or mechanical filtration . Activated aluminum is also a water treatment technique used extensively to reduce arsenic levels.
How is Aluminum Regulated?
Aluminum is currently regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act as a secondary contaminant at levels of 0.05 – 0.20 mg/L. The levels established for these secondary contaminants are not enforceable , but are guidelines for public water supplies to monitor and control the aesthetic problems these contaminants may present.
There has been some controversy over the health effects of aluminum , as there have been studies linking it to Alzheimer ‘s disease. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer ‘s because patients who have suffered from the disease have been found to have high levels of aluminum in their brains.
However it is not known whether aluminum actually causes the disease or that the buildup of aluminum happens to people already having the disease . Aluminum is also known to cause damage to the central nervous systems, dementia , loss of memory, listlessness and severe trembling in significant concentrations .
How do you test for Aluminum?
There is a colorimetric test that can be run using Eriochrome cyanine R dye, producing a color change, which can be easily measured using a simple colorimeter . This can be an accurate analysis for field measurements.
Laboratories analyzing drinking water samples can utilize various methods including EPA method 200 .7 and 200 .8 which utilize an Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) or the Standards Method 31138 which uses Graphite Furnace.
How do you treat for Aluminum?
Due to the widely publicized studies about aluminum and Alzheimer ‘s, many homeowners are concerned with any level detected in their water . There is really no cost effective way to remove aluminum from the entire water supply. Point-of-Use water treatment device, such as distillation and reverse osmosis are effective at removing aluminum , but only produce a limited amount of water per day.