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Radon Found in Maine Well Water

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repairing wells throughout Utah and Wyoming.
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Maine Well Water

You may not need total well rehabilitation, but what if a dangerous substance like radon is found in your well water? Following a test conducted by the Maine Municipal Association in the Livermore Municipal Town offices and Fire Station on January 2, 2014, another test will be undertaken to see if the radon is still evident. The risk of levels still being high is that it could dissipate through the air when water is being used indoors, which is why an air test is the most common follow-up after a positive radon water test.

The water test revealed 106,153 picocuries of radon in every liter of water, according to Northeast Laboratory Services. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends much less for safe consumption (4,000 picocuries per liter in Maine). However, radon is a gas with no taste, color or odor, so it’s easy to go unnoticed. It’s derived from radioactive breakdown of uranium (which is already in the earth) and has connections to lung cancer. The only way it can be revealed is with (often random) water or air testing.

Caught in Time

The good news is that radon is easy to test for and takes a long time at high consumption to pose a major health risk. According to the lead at the Maine Radiation Control Program, Robert Stilwell, “It takes years of exposure to radon before you face the hazard of lung cancer.” The EPA has separate guidelines from this state’s, but in Maine it’s recommended that no more than 4,000 picocuries of radon be in any liter of private well water — so clearly these levels are through the roof. This is based on a family of four depending on well water for most common usages.

However, Stilwell urges anyone with well water (even those who have tested in at high radon levels) not to panic. “This is fixable,” he promised. However, it can come at a cost. One of the most basic of approaches is installing an aeration system, which costs around $5,000. “For every 10,000 picocuries per liter of radon in water, around 1 picocurie per liter is added to indoor air levels,” according to the Maine Division of Environmental Health. In other words, high levels in water don’t necessarily translate to high levels in the air.

What You Can Do

Since uranium is in the ground, technically anyone with well water is at risk. Let this serve as a reminder of why regular water testing is so critical. It can be part of the standard procedure during a bi-annual well inspection, and catching these problems early lead to faster and more budget-friendly fixes. Don’t put off an inspection due to lack of time or money. It’s much more affordable to stick with your appointments than let them slide in the long run, especially since radon can get into the water at any time.