Concern Over Radium in the Water

Posted at: 04/25/2013 6:51 PM
Updated at: 04/25/2013 6:57 PM
By: Katie Eldred

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's a  radioactive metal that brings with it health concerns. It's called radium and it's something that's becoming all too familiar with some local residents.

Radium has been found in several area communities drinking water, including Lewiston.

Over time ingesting radium can cause bone cancer or lymphoma.

The city of Lewiston has Radium levels measuring at 5.5 Picocuries per liter while the maximum level set by the EPA is 5.4.

Gary Babcock the Director of Lewiston Public Works says the city is temporarily mixing their water to dilute the radium.

"It comes through here and then goes through a mixer," said Babcock.

But because of the seriousness of the issue a permanent fix is in order.

Jennifer Hengel with the city of Lewiston is working on the planning of a new filtration system that would rid the water of the radium.

“Over several years of exposure to radium it may increase the probability of developing cancer,” said Hengel.

And Lewiston is just one of the communities in our area working to fix this problem.

"The city of Rushford had to build a water filtration plant, the city of Lanesboro, and the city of Stockton," said Hengel.

The cost on these cities is major. A new filtration plant for Lewiston will cost more than three million dollars.

"It's a huge burden on small rural communities that don't have the larger tax base to spread out the cost," said Hengel.

The city will apply for federal and state grants for part of that funding, but the rest will fall on the community.

The new filtration plant will come with several benefits.

"It'd be good for your clothes, your baths, it's going to be a lot cleaner water," said Babcock.

Most importantly community members can rest assured that their water will be safe.

"When you’re trying to protect the public you make sure they are safe," said Babcock.

Because of a mandate they must have a filtration plant complete by march 2015. The city says it will be another year or so before they can begin construction.