Dear Sun Spots: I would like some information on arsenic levels in water. Does it only show up in well water? Does radon only show up in well water? What are the appropriate levels for arsenic and radon in water? What health problems do high levels of both create? Can you still use the water and what can you do to it while you are waiting for a solution? How often should water be tested for radon/arsenic? – No Name, No Town.

The Maine Bureau of Health recommends a yearly test for bacteria, nitrates and nitrites. It also additionally recommends a test for arsenic, uranium, radon, first draw lead and fluoride every three to five years.

According to, concentrations in milligrams per liter (mg/L) for arsenic: Acceptable maximum concentration is 0.010 mg/L. Chronic exposure to low concentrations of arsenic has been linked to bladder cancer. This element, though relatively uncommon in soil and rock, is commonly found in trace amounts in Maine groundwater. Arsenic was formerly used as a pesticide in orchards and on field crops.

Concentrations in picocuries per liter (pCi/L) for radon: A curie is a measure of radioactivity. Acceptable maximum concentrations are 20,000 pCi/L for radon and 15 pCi/L for “gross alpha” radiation. When water is used, such as a shower, radon gas from the water enters the air. Airborne radon and gross alpha particles pose a health risk because of elevated cancer risk. Radioactive elements occur naturally and concentrations vary from place to place. Higher concentrations are associated with some types of granite and high-grade metamorphic rock.

For more information consider contacting: Drinking Water Program, 161 Capitol St., 11 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0011, 287-2070,; Maine Health & Environmental Testing Laboratory, 221 State St., 12 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333, 1-866-292-3474, 287-2727; Maine Groundwater Association, c/o Patricia Pratt, 280 Litchfield Road, Bowdoin, ME 04287. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension also has resources and information on drinking water wells contact them at 581-3241 or via their Web site at

Water testing may also be provided by certified private laboratories such as A & L Laboratory in Auburn, 784-5354; Katahdin Analytical Services in Westbrook 874-2400, Maine Environmental Laboratory in Yarmouth 846-6569; McFarland Associates in North Windham 892-4485; Microbac Laboratories Maine in Scarborough 885-1283; Northeast Laboratory Services in Waterville 873-7711 and Wright-Pierce Engineers in Topsham 725-8721.

Laboratories are certified by test (examples: arsenic, bacteria, radon), so you will need to check with a laboratory to find out exactly what they test for. The tests may also change. For confirming what tests are done by a laboratory or ask any other questions regarding laboratory quality by phoning 287-1929 or by e-mailing the certification officer at [email protected]

Dear Sun Spots: I am hoping to find an old work colleague. His name is Paul Fortin. I believe he lives in the Lewiston/Auburn area. We used to work together at Photofinish on Turner Street in Auburn (in 1995). He is a local photographer whom I would like to take my wedding pictures. I have had no luck finding him, and I am hoping that your column will help me. Thank you very much. I may be reached at 576-3618. – Karen Mason, No Town.

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