South Carolina Reports Traces of Radium in Groundwater

July 23, 2003

Naturally occurring radium was found in groundwater in Lexington County, S.C., reported the Beaufort Gazette. The groundwater that supplies both public and private wells showed trace amounts of radium that were first detected in 15 samples taken from public water supplies across the county during the past two years.

The radium does not pose a major threat, officials said. However, residents should get their wells tested. If radium is found, homeowners are being encouraged to purchase filters.

"The extent of this is sketchy," said Ann Clark, assistant director of the state agency's Midlands office. "We do not think it is an alarming problem, but it is something we need to look into."

DHEC officials will meet with area residents to discuss the problem.

Radium occurs in a geologic belt across the Midlands, officials said. Radium does not have color, odor or any taste to it, so it cannot be detected without testing the water. Radium (Ra) is a naturally occurring radioactive element that is present in varying amounts in rocks and soil within the earth's crust. Small quantities of radium derived from these sources can also be found in groundwater supplies. Radium can be present in several forms (isotopes). The most common isotopes in Illinois groundwater are Ra-226 and Ra-228. Long-term exposure to radium is thought to increase a person's chances of developing cancer.

A number of methods are available to public water supplies to remove radium from water. Ion exchange, lime softening, and reverse osmosis are the most common and can remove up to 90% of radium present.

Source: The Beaufort Gazette