Radionuclides and Letters to Congress

By now everybody has heard something about radionuclides in the water. Radionuclides are naturally occurring radioactive materials found in rocks and soil and transferred into groundwater. As uranium and thorium decay, radium is formed. The most common radionuclides are Radium 226 and Radium 228. The EPA has set a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for radium of 5 picocuries per liter. A Curie is the number of atoms decaying each second. One Curie is equal to 37,000,000,000 atoms decaying each second. A picocurie is one trillionth of a Curie.

The water in the Hickory averages less than 30 picocuries per liter. According to some experts, radioactivity levels in common consumables are substantially higher than Hickory water. For example, whiskey is 1,200 picocuries/liter, beer is 1,300, milk is 1,400 and salad oil a whopping 5,000!

The EPA contends that a correlation between radium and certain types of cancer, specifically bone cancer, exists. Some approximations contend that an individual would have to drink two liters of water a day for 70 years before levels in the body would be elevated to a potentially dangerous degree. One study conducted by the Medical College of Wisconsin and Dr. Peter Layde, one of the nation's top epidemiologists, concluded a reduction in drinking water radium levels was not medically or scientifically warranted. The study released August 8, 2000 showed no correlation between radium and bone cancer.

The EPA's standards have forced municipal water supply systems to meet the 5 picocurie standard. In an effort to comply with these standards, the City of Brady is planning on mixing groundwater with lake water, while Richland SUD is experimenting with a removal system. Any such measures will create great financial burdens on small communities. The majority of this burden will fall on smaller water systems.

In an effort to ease the pressure placed on these smaller water systems, Congressman Mike Conaway has offered an amendment to H.R. 5386 (Interior and Environment Appropriations). According to this amendment, none of the funds appropriated could be used to enforce the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for arsenic and radionuclides in the case of any public water system serving 10,000 people or less.

Citizens who support this amendment are encouraged to write letters to their Congressmen. Sample letters are available at the Hickory Underground Water Conservation District Office. Call 325-597-2785 or email for more information.