No. Well water isn’t safe to consume, shower, or use after a nuclear fallout. Radioactivity in well water has become a serious concern in drinking water in recent decades. The radioactive discharge from nuclear facilities, factories, and hospitals pollutes underground water, and well water is at the highest risk. Private well water maintenance is the homeowner’s responsibility. Hence, adequate measures must be taken to ensure you aren’t using contaminated water.
Some people believe that well water is safe if your well is not shallow. Some other factors like soil permeability, well condition (well casing and screen), and well cap also play a critical role in deciding this. The time it takes for rainwater to percolate back to the water table and become part of the groundwater that the well pumps also impacts usability.
It is better to get your water tested after nuclear fallout, a radioactive leak or every 3-4 months if you live near a nuclear reactor or a plant.
How to Test for Radioactivity (Nuclear Contaminants) in Well Water?
Collect a water sample and send it to a professional testing facility. You can also use DIY testing strips, but we recommend lab testing. These facilities have high-end machines that can identify contaminants and point out their exact concentration in water.
Safe Limit for Radionuclides Set by EPA
EPA has set standards for radioactive elements in the water. Compare the results in the water quality report with the following standards.
- Combined radium 226/228 of 5 pCi/L;
- A gross alpha standard for all alphas of 15 pCi/L (not including radon and uranium);
- A combined standard of 4 mrem/year for beta emitters.
- MCL for uranium is 30 µg/L
Your water is safe to drink if the concentration is below the maximum contaminant level (MCL). If it is higher, you must stop using water immediately and arrange for bottled water for drinking and cooking.
How can I remove Radioactive Elements from Well Water?
You can install water treatment systems to remove radioactive elements from the well water. Most water experts recommend testing water after installing these filters.
Reverse Osmosis Filters – Best for Drinking and Cooking Water
The most serious concern is drinking water purification. A reverse osmosis filter can remove up to 99.9% of all contaminants in well water. The system’s heart is the RO membrane that can remove up to 0.001 micron-sized particles. The other filters in a RO water system include a carbon filter, a UV purification system, and a remineralization cartridge.
RO systems come in different shapes, sizes, and capabilities. We suggest you buy the best one to remove radioactive minerals. The common types of RO filters are under-sink and standalone filters.
Salt-Based Water Softeners
A water softener is typically used to make well water soft. However, it can also remove iron and nuclides from well water but with precautions and higher maintenance. The nuclides are heavier than calcium and magnesium ions, requiring frequent regeneration and proper water disposal. A softener removes up to 90% of nuclides from well water.
Lime softening is commonly used in public water systems to remove radium from water. Lime softening works by solidifying radioactive elements that can be removed using a sediment filter. It gives up to 80% accurate results.
Point of Use Systems
A point-of-use system is best for rental homes, RVs, and apartments. These units are attached to faucets and deliver up to 98% results. Point-of-use systems are easier to manage and cost-effective.
Health Effects of Drinking Water Contaminated with Radioactive Elements
- Stomach cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Bladder and kidney cancer
- Breast cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Lung cancer
- Reproductive issues (infertility, stillborn births, and birth defects)
These are fatal problems. You must never ignore radionuclides in well water and test it regularly.