MDI Biological Laboratory
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Free home-test kits available to test well water for arsenic

Bar Harbor Health Officer Mike Gurtler is leading a new effort to test all the town’s residential wells for arsenic. Free home-test kits will be available at the municipal building.

“Arsenic occurs in many Maine wells,” Gurtler says. “It’s an under-reported threat that can cause cancer, heart disease, immune disorders and developmental delays in children.” 

Gurtler is working with MDI Biological Laboratory’s “All About Arsenic” program, funded by a Health Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institute of General Medical Science. The program is a monitoring and education initiative that’s underway in Maine and New Hampshire. 

Eighty-five Bar Harbor wells were tested in a similar effort in 2021. Results now show that 6 percent of the samples exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s 10 parts per billion arsenic standard for public water supplies; 13 percent exceeded the more stringent 5 ppb allowed in some other states. Levels ranged from 6.2 ppb to 188.8 ppb. 

The goal this fall is to collect 100 new samples in Bar Harbor. Teachers and students at Conners Emerson School are helping to collect samples and analyze the data. Partners also include the College of the Atlantic and the Portland-based Defend our Health program. 

Kits can be picked up at the Bar Harbor Planning Office (93 Cottage St.) through Nov. 16.  On Election Day, students from Conners Emerson and College of the Atlantic will provide information and kits at the Municipal Building. 

Residents unable to pick up a kit themselves can email Dr. Sarah Hall at COA ( to arrange for home delivery and return once well water is sampled. 

All kits must be returned to the planning office within 48 hours of sampling, with Nov. 18 the final day for returns. For more information about the initiative, email Gurtler at 

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