Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Surveying Boron and Naturally Soft Groundwater with a Computer Database

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

Surveying Boron and Naturally Soft Groundwater with a Computer Database

Article excerpt


The health department of Ingham County, Michigan, has developed an ongoing program for evaluating and monitoring groundwater, the primary source of drinking water in the area. In this undertaking, computerized mapping and database programs have been important tools. An example of how these tools work is provided by a case in which computer analysis helped identify potential concerns with boron levels in some Ingham County water wells.

Groundwater in Ingham County has been characterized as "hard," with the exception of naturally "soft" groundwater in one area of bedrock water wells. The naturally soft groundwater also has been characterized as having above-normal levels of boron--in excess of 1.0 parts per million.

A computer mapping program and a water quality database were used to delineate the area of naturally soft groundwater. A review of well construction records indicated that wells in the soft-water area had more shale bedrock than hard-water wells. A statistical analysis confirmed the correlation between high levels of boron in groundwater and a higher percentage of shale bedrock in sampled wells. A correlation also was found between water hardness and sodium-to-boron ratios in groundwater.

The levels of boron in the soft-water wells are of concern since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a long-term health advisory for boron at 0.9 parts per million in drinking water. The computerized mapping and database programs were instrumental in studying this public health issue and could assist in many other projects related to the evaluation and monitoring of groundwater resources.


Computers have become a tool as common in the workplace as paper and pencils. Many environmental health agencies have converted typical office records and tiles to computer systems. Information related to groundwater resources is one example of this trend. Groundwater information now can be filed and managed by computer programs or databases that are able to interface with computer software programs or provide information to those programs for analysis.

A computerized groundwater database should include well construction and water chemistry data. Essential information includes

* an accurate way of locating each site,

* a description of the rock and soil material in which each well has been installed,

* chemical data reflecting well water quality,

* data on water quantity, and

* groundwater elevation information.

Once this kind of information has been collected in the computer, specialized software programs can provide a variety of analyses and reports. The reports and analyses can help with land use planning issues, cleanup of groundwater pollution, assessing the availability of drinking water for municipal systems, and the provision of general water quality information for a geographic area. The information also can be used to assess the exposure of the general public to possible contaminants in the drinking-water resource.

In Ingham County Michigan, a computer groundwater database and a computerized mapping system called C-Map have proven to be valuable tools for analyzing, tracking, and recording public health concerns. This paper describes one such project: the Ingham County database was used to study an area where groundwater quality may be a public health issue.

Mapping Groundwater Chemistry

The Ingham County Health Department, located in Lansing, Michigan, developed a computerized database of groundwater chemistry information beginning in 1982. The database was created to help assess the quality of groundwater, which is the primary source of drinking water for Ingham County. Up to 33 inorganic parameters, including the major cations and anions, are addressed in this water chemistry information. In this ongoing project, a total of 1,753 water supply wells have been sampled. …

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