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Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5202

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service,
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Wisconsin Department of Health Services

Distribution and Variation of Arsenic in Wisconsin Surface Soils, With Data on Other Trace Elements

By Krista A. Stensvold

Thumbnail of and link to Title Page (2.05 MB)Abstract

A total of 664 soil samples distributed among different geographic regions and soil types were collected across Wisconsin to describe the distribution of arsenic relative to parent material, soil texture, and drainage class. Soils from 6 inches in depth were composited, digested in aqua regia, and analyzed for 17 trace elements. Observed soil arsenic concentrations range from a high of 39 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) to less than the laboratory detection limit of 1 mg/kg. Ten samples with soil arsenic concentrations greater than 8.5 mg/kg were determined to be significantly separate from the main cluster of the dataset. With these outliers removed, overall soil arsenic concentrations in Wisconsin have a median value of 1.8 mg/kg, and the 95-percent upper confidence limit of the mean is 2.4 mg/kg.

Soils with sandy glacial outwash as a parent material have a lower median arsenic concentration (1.0 mg/kg) than soils forming in other parent materials (1.5 to 3.0 mg/kg). Soil texture and drainage category also influence median arsenic concentration. Finer grained soils have a higher observed range of concentrations. For loamy and loess-dominated soil groups, drainage category influences the median arsenic concentration and observed range of values, but a consistent relationship within the data is not apparent. Statistical analysis of the 16 other elements are presented in this report, but the relationships of concentrations to soil properties or geographic areas were not examined.

Revised February 25, 2013

First posted March 15, 2012

For additional information contact:
Krista Stensvold
U.S. Geological Survey
8505 Research Way
Madision Wisconsin

(608) 821–3856

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Suggested citation:

Stensvold, K.A., 2012, Distribution and variation of arsenic in Wisconsin surface soils, with data on other trace elements: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5202, 41 p., 1 app.





Purpose and Scope

Study Area


Site Selection

Sample Collection

Laboratory Analysis

Statistical Analysis

Distribution and Variation of Arsenic

Statewide Arsenic Distribution

Comparison of Soil Arsenic Concentrations Across Geographic Regions

Comparison of Soil Arsenic Concentrations in Soil Groups

Data on Other Trace Elements


References Cited


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