Assessing the Spatial Pattern of Iron in Well Water From a Small Central Florida Community

Authors: Russ Butler*, Adventist University of Health Sciences, Jason Hudgins, Lake Eire College of Osteopathic Medicine, Nicholas Lambert, University of St Augustine for Health Sciences
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: community-level analysis, ground water, drinking water quality, iron, medical geography, spatial analysis.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Grand Couteau, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Iron is one of the most common elements in the earth’s crust, which corresponds to it being a common constituent in drinking water supplies. Residents of Bithlo (pop. ~8,200, 2012 US Census), an unincorporated community in east-central Florida, have observed that their drinking water tastes like metal and stains clothing and teeth. An evaluation of water samples collected from over 200 private drinking-water wells revealed iron concentrations that exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) secondary standard of 0.3 mg/L. Households with and without point-of-entry treatment were found to have over 10 times (3.86 mg/L) and 3 times (0.92 mg/L) more iron than the EPA’s secondary standard, respectively. The human health-based threshold of 4.2 mg/L established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was exceeded in 38.6 percent of untreated residences. Community-wide statistical and spatial water-quality trends were developed by combining the collected, well-water quality data with historically-available water quality reports. Surface interpolation of untreated (N-79) drinking-water, point data (ArcGIS 10.4, Ordinary Kriging) indicates that >99% of the Bithlo study area has high iron levels (>0.3mg/L). Geographic and spatial analyses revealed greater information than statistical modelling alone could provide. High physiologic iron concentrations are associated with fatigue, arthralgia, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and cardiomyopathy. Untreated drinking water in Bithlo average an order of magnitude greater than the EPA secondary standard. Thus, could Bithlo residents be subject to chronic iron overload?

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