Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Earth and Environmental Sciences


Chemistry and Biochemistry

First Reader/Committee Chair

Robert Phalen


Arsenic (As) is a toxic semi-metallic element found in groundwater, soils, and plants. Natural and anthropogenic sources contribute to the distribution of arsenic in the environment. Arsenic’s toxic and mobile behavior is associated with its speciation ability. There are two types of arsenic available to the environment, inorganic and organic arsenic. Of the two, inorganic arsenic is more toxic to humans and more mobile in the environment. Two inorganic compounds responsible for arsenic contamination are trivalent arsenite, As (III), and pentavalent arsenate, As (V). Trivalent arsenate is considered to be more soluble, toxic, and mobile than pentavalent arsenate. Arsenic’s absorptive properties in plant cells and ability to attach to minerals causing secondary contamination are due to environmental factors such as pH, redox potential, and solubility.

The current maximum contaminant level for arsenic in water is 10 µg/L (or ppb). Research on arsenic involving high concentrations already present in groundwater (>300ppb) are compared either with crops irrigated with such water or a human indicator (such as; hair, nails, blood, or urine) in order to determine exposure limits. In this current research, relationships between the area in the studies and the contaminated media (water, soil, vegetation) were tested to determine if arsenic in water was correlated with arsenic concentrations present in soil and vegetation. Commercially obtained ITS Quick Rapid Arsenic Test Kits were used to measure arsenic concentrations for the media tested. A method for analysis of arsenic in vegetation was developed, with an estimated 80% recovery. The pH and conductivity were also taken for water and soil samples as a means of correlative comparison. The development of faster and portable methods for arsenic concentration may provide means for predicting the relationship between all contaminated media. The purpose of the study was to determine the correlation between arsenic water concentration and pH for water, soil, or vegetation and whether it plays an overall role in the amount of arsenic present. As a result, water and soil pH played a significant role in the presence of arsenic in the water and vegetation, respectively. A moderate negative correlation between arsenic in water and water pH was discovered to have a Spearman’s rho value of -0.708 with a p ≤ 0.05. In addition, a significant negative correlation between soil pH and arsenic in vegetation was also discovered to have a Spearman’s rho of -0.628 at a p ≤ 0.05. Even though, pH was significantly correlated with arsenic concentrations in different media, there is evidence that pH plays a role also in the amount of arsenic available in the soil and vegetation. Further studies are recommended.