Remember the scene in one of the Mad Max movies where Mel Gibson walked up to a guy selling water outside of the city entrance, ran his radiation detector over it and then looked at the guy like he was a jerk for trying to sell the water because the meter went off like a high school bell? If not, then perhaps you ought to try some of the water down in the Juliette area of Georgia where radioactive uranium (also known as radon) has made an unwanted appearance in the well water.
Today we read an article called “Water testing for uranium expanding in Juliette” that described how recent testing had detected higher than acceptable levels of uranium in drinking water samples pulled from various residential water wells in the region.
A few highlights from the article:
- Testing over the past few years has detected unsafe levels of radon in the air and water in a higher than normal number of Juliette residences.
- As a result of past findings, University of Georgia graduate students have started a program of heavy metals testing in some homes and the Georgia Department of Public Health has started a broader radioactivity sampling recently at locations previously found to have contained uranium in the water or radon in the air.
- Some feel the uranium problem may have come from the burning of certain types of coal at a nearby coal-fired power plant.
- Uranium occurs naturally in bedrock and a lot of that material lies under the area.
- Information obtained from voluntary health surveys so far does not indicate the presence of illness or symptom clusters — except for 50% of respondents reporting high blood pressure and 25% of residents mentioning breathing/respiratory concerns.
- Half of the wells tested so far contained levels of uranium in excess of levels considered unsafe by government agencies.
- Eating or swallowing uranium can result in kidney problems — USEPA.
- Inhaled radon ranks as the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers — USEPA.
Pretty scary stuff regardless of where the uranium and radon came from. But, as the article did point out, at least government and health officials have taken an interest in the matter and additional testing will take place.
In the meantime, however, and also as the article pointed out, local residences have had to abandon the use of their wells and rely on bottled water until the necessary funds to pay for the expansion of a nearby public water system to areas currently affected by tainted well water.
Testing for uranium in drinking water?
We suggest leaving this sort of testing to the experts since you will most definitely want third party evidence in court if you ever need to go after a company for negligence or damages. Most water testing laboratories with proper certification can perform that sort of testing or recommend one that does.
Testing for radon?
Both tests require laboratory analysis of the test kits after use BUT the cost paid for either of the kits includes the cost for lab testing. The basic radon in air test kit costs around $12 and the basic (short term) radon in water test kit costs around $25.
Moral of the story?
Like arsenic, another naturally occurring well water contaminant that can appear seemingly without warning in one’s ground water, you will not know of their presence without testing since neither of the unwanted contaminants has a distinct taste or odor — potentially making them silent killers if their presence goes undetected for too long.