Revealing the sources of arsenic in private well water using Random Forest Classification and Regression

Subhasis Giri, Yang Kang, Kristi MacDonald, Mara Tippett, Zeyuan Qiu, Richard G. Lathrop, Christopher C. Obropta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Exposure to arsenic through private drinking water wells causes serious human health risks throughout the globe. Water testing data indicates there is arsenic contamination in private drinking water wells across New Jersey. To reduce the adverse health risk due to exposure to arsenic in drinking water, it is necessary to identify arsenic sources affecting private wells. Private wells are not regulated by any federal or state agencies through the Safe Drinking Water Act and therefore information is often lacking. To this end, we have developed machine learning algorithms including Random Forest Classification and Regression to decipher the factors contributing to higher arsenic concentration in private drinking water wells in west-central New Jersey. Arsenic concentration in private drinking water wells served as a response variable while explanatory variables were geological bedrock type, soil type, drainage class, land use/cover, and presence of orchards, contaminated sites, and abandoned mines within the 152.4-meter (500 ft) radius of each well. Random Forest Classification and Regression achieved 66 % and 55 % prediction accuracies for arsenic concentration in private drinking water wells, respectively. Overall, both models identify that bedrock, soil, land use/cover, and drainage type (in descending order) are the most important variables contributing to higher arsenic concentration in well water. These models further identify bedrock subgroups at a finer scale including Passaic Formation, Lockatong Formation, Stockton Formation contributing significantly to arsenic concentration in well water. Identification of sources of arsenic contamination in private drinking water wells at such a fine scale facilitates development of more targeted outreach as well as mitigation strategies to improve water quality and safeguard human health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number159360
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume857
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 20 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

Keywords

  • Arsenic
  • Bed rock
  • Human health
  • Private well water
  • Random Forest Classification
  • Random Forest Regression

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