International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Final Project

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Timothy J. Downs, D.Env.

Second Reader

Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Ph.D.


Aquifers in the U.S. store groundwater used by many Americans every day for drinking eating, bathing and cleaning. These underground sources of water are vital to life and may be subject to contamination from both natural and anthropogenic pollution, including manganese (Mn) – especially shallow aquifers (<100 feet to bedrock). Natural sources of Mn are found in soils, surficial deposits, and bedrock, while anthropogenic contamination derives from landfills, waste facilities, or industries that use toxic materials. Pollutants like Mn raise concern because there is no policy in place to enforce regulation of Mn levels in water supplies based on limited information about health effects. Yet studies have shown elevated levels of Mn intake can lead to adverse human health effects. This study uses ArcMap to identify potential sources of Mn and/or toxics contamination in shallow U.S. aquifers based on geologic characteristics of a given aquifer source and proximity to waste sites. The results show approximately 2 million Americans may be at risk of consuming water with natural Mn contamination, and of those 2 million, close to 1.7 million are also vulnerable to additional toxics from anthropogenic waste. These data are alarming since they are based on populations directly within aquifer boundaries for natural contamination and because only a small fraction of anthropogenic waste sites were considered based on Trichloroethylene (TCE) release sites, Mn release sites, and CIRCLA (Superfund) sites. This study provides useful information to identify potential areas of oral Mn exposure, but there are still many unknowns. A more comprehensive assessment of aquifer vulnerability as well as continued research into human health effects from oral exposure are recommended.



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