Health officials will test drinking water throughout the Pensacola Bay area for radium Monday amid allegations a local utility provided contaminated water for a decade.
High levels of radium were recorded from 1996 to 2000 in tap water and wells that supply drinking water to Pensacola and Gulf Breeze. Earlier this month, radium contamination was detected in the tap water of two Escambia County elementary schools.
Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive element found in ground water throughout the United States, although the suspected source in this case is an underground plume of chemicals coming from a toxic waste site.
Long-term exposure to radium has been linked to bone and nasal cancer.
The Escambia County Utilities Authority faces two lawsuits because of the radium levels. The city of Gulf Breeze filed a $4 million lawsuit accusing the utility of supplying contaminated water from 1993 to 2003, and a proposed $25 million class-action suit claims up to 10,000 residents are exposed to radium pollution that lingers in water pipes.