Aiken notifies water customers of radium

Elevated levels of naturally occurring radium in drinking water prompted the city of Aiken to notify its customers and hire a consultant to help resolve the problem.

“Although this is not an emergency, as our customers you do have a right to know what happened, what you should do and what we are doing to correct the situation,” said the notice, dated Friday and sent to the municipal water customers.

Radium is a radioactive element that occurs naturally in many rocks, soils, and groundwaters, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet. Radium can dissolve in water and may be found at unsafe levels in certain areas of the country including South Carolina.

The federal limit for radium in drinking water is 5 picocuries per liter. According to Aiken’s notice, the “average level of radium over the last year” was 5.8 picocuries per liter.

City officials advised customers they do not need to find an alternative water source and that a consultant is helping to correct the problem.

“This is not an immediate risk,” the notice said. “If it had been uou would have been notified immediately.”

People who drink water with excessive levels of radium over many years have an increased risk of getting certain types of cancer.

According to the S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control, Aiken County has eight public well sites that show elevated radium levels in groundwater and is second only to nearby Lexington County, with 18 such sites. Richland County, with seven sites, was ranked third.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

More information

http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/radium.html

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