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Pacific Northwest States Rate High For Corrosive Groundwater Potential

Brian Bull

A review of over 20,000 groundwater sites by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) shows half of the nation’s states have high --to very high-- potential to become corrosive.  As KLCC's Brian Bull reports, this includes Oregon and Washington.

The most affected states are in the northeast and south, but both Oregon and Washington rate for “high prevalance” according to the data. 

Credit USGS
USGS map showing states by their potential for groundwater corrosion.

The USGS says untreated corrosive groundwater can dissolve lead from pipes, fixtures, and solder.

Terrence Conlon is a groundwater hydrologist with the USGS in Portland.  He says 200 wells in Oregon were assessed.  They were largely in the Willamette valley between Portland and Eugene.

“This would really be more of a heads up for domestic wells, rural folks who are in self-supplied households that are in the rural part and not supplied from a municipal water supply," he explains.

" And just because the water – through these indices -- suggest that it’s corrosive, doesn’t mean that it will be corrosive.” 

The indices Conlon refers to involve how much calcium carbonate is in the groundwater – which prohibits leaching of metals from plumbing – and what’s called galvanic corrosion.  That’s when the water has high chloride to sulfate mass ratio and low alkalinity.

Concerned well owners can have their tap water tested for lead and other contaminants. 

Credit USGS
Sites across the United States showing groundwater sites and their corrosive potential, according to the Langelier Saturation Index.

  The USGS report can be found here:  https://www.usgs.gov/news/new-study-shows-high-potential-groundwater-be-corrosive-half-us-states-0

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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