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Radiation in Drinking Water

Can levels of alpha radiation in drinking water be reduced?

The short answer is Yes. There are a number of treatment options that are available to help reduce levels of gross alpha radiation in our drinking water. In order to determine the most effective treatment for these water sources, the actual source of the alpha radiation must be identified. Due to the fact that alpha radiation can come from a number of different sources, more than a single test may be needed. Private well standards below:

  • If the gross alpha result is less than 5 pCi/L (picocuries), then no further testing or treatment is needed.*
  • If the gross alpha result is 5-15 pCi/L, test for radium 226 and radium 228.*
  • If the gross alpha result is greater than 15 pCi/L, test for radium 226, radium 228 and uranium.*

*Although the EPA suggests these tests, there is a chance that some of these particles are from outside sources such as nuclear energy plants or nuclear testing sites. These have been known to contribute to the levels of gross alpha radiation.

What are my Water Treatment Options for Radiation in Drinking Water?

Solving an alpha radiation problem can be extremely complex. Radon is currently not regulated. Discussion continues among scientists and regulators about the levels of acceptability for radon in drinking water supplies. Additional discussions are ongoing to find alternate methods of disposing of radioactive waste.

  • Radium—Treatment should be considered when test results show that the total radium 226 and 228 is greater than or equal to 5 pCi/L (picocuries). A water softener or cation exchanger can be used as a solution to remove radium from drinking water. This method of treatment exchanges radium for sodium or potassium. When the softener is cleaned, the radium is flushed away with the wastewater into a disposal site such as a leachfield or municipal sewer.

    Another type of treatment called reverse osmosis has also been shown to remove most radium from drinking water. This process forces water under pressure through a membrane which in turn leaves the radium behind. This radium is then flushed away. This process is relatively slow and is much more suitable for household use rather than a municipal water system. You can see additional information on Reverse Osmosis Reviews.

  • Uranium— Uranium standard is generally 20 ug/L (micrograms per liter). This standard is used for most public community water systems. If you have a private water supply you’ll want to consider treatment when test results show uranium at greater than or equal to 20 pCi/L or 20 ug/L. A treatment similar to water softening is called Anion exchange where uranium is removed and exchanged for chloride. Reverse Osmosis is also known to remove uranium.  Lime softening, along with coagulation and filtration are used by public systems to treat water. These techniques are not cost effective for most homes, but have been shown to remove radium and uranium respectively.
  • Radon—If radon is found to be present in your water supply at home, you will want to consider testing for radon in the home as well. Treatment for your well water is necessary if the radon from the water is causing the level in the air in your home to rise above the recommended indoor air action level of 4 pCi/L. It general statistic shows that 10,000 pCi/L in water is said to increase the radon level in air by 1.0 pCi/L.

    Another way to deal with radon is Aeration. This method moves large volumes of air which are blown through the water or sprayed on the water. This method allows the radon gas to exit the water and enter the air. The air is then vented outside, and the treated water will be repressurized and piped to faucets.

Can an Incident like Fukushima or Chernobyl effect my Water?
As most of you know radiation is a clear, odorless gas that emits alpha, beta and gamma rays. These particles have been found worldwide after the events at both Chernobyl and Fukushima in Japan. Although we have very little information on the current levels of bio accumulation in the United States it has been shown that increased levels of Iodine 131 with a short half life of 8 days and Cesium 137 have been found in U.S. water supplies. The fact is that no levels of radiation are safe, so we must search for alternatives when looking for a solution to these man made isotopes.

Although current studies are inconclusive we have seen that levels of Cesium 137 have removed radiation in treated water with Reverse Osmosis systems. We recommend that all those in search of a way to reduce the levels of radiation in the body invest in a Reverse Osmosis system. Reverse Osmosis Reviews is continually researching the topic on radiation levels from Fukushima in the United States and beyond. We will continue to inform you as we learn more about the radiation in drinking water.