Radioactivity in Well Water: Risks factors, Preventions and Treatments

EPA states that around 15% of fellow Americans use private wells to fulfill their water demands. As wells are private property, maintaining water quality is the owner’s responsibility. Well owners must get their water tested periodically for its quality. If you own a well, you must conduct annual water testing for bacteria, viruses, nitrates, and other contaminants. A 3-year test must be performed to examine water for radionuclides.

Radioactivity in Well Water

Radioactivity in well water is a developing issue. It was generally not discussed for a couple of decades. However, with the increase in releases from nuclear power plants and medical facilities such as hospitals, factories, and other places dealing with radioactive elements, its criticality has now increased. Despite the government taking adequate measures, it is important to know about radioactivity yourself. If you use water well to get water, you must read this article and ensure that you are not exposed to this serious threat.

Let’s read about different aspects of radioactivity in well water!

What is a radionuclide?

A radionuclide is a radioactive chemical found in water. Radionuclides are mostly naturally occurring. They can either get into the water by its movement through rocks and soil or enter the water from the radioactive waste materials.

What are the different types of Radionuclides?

Radionuclides get mixed in water and can cause a lot of health problems. The common types of radionuclides are given below.

Radon – It is a naturally occurring gas and comes from the radioactive element Radon. It is also found in rocks and gases. EPA recommends that well water users must test for radon’s presence in the water.

Uranium – Uranium is a naturally occurring element and is commonly found underground and on surface water. It can readily dissolve in well water and contaminate it.

Radium – Radium-226 and Radium-228 are naturally occurring elements. They may be present in a trace amount in water.

Alpha Emitters – They occur naturally and can be formed as a result of human activities.

Beta & Photon Emitters – They are mostly produced as a result of man-made activities. Such emitters are associated with nuclear plants, research, and manufacturing facilities using radioactive materials. If you have a well located near any such establishment, there is a high chance that your water will be contaminated with radioactive materials.

Radioactive elements have a high amount of energy. The radionuclides are formed as a result of the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium. The natural decay process usually occurs inside rocks and soil. When water moves through these rocks and soil, radionuclides are mixed in it.

How to test for Radioactivity in Water?

water examination

If you have city water in your home, you can ask your local drinking water office to get a water quality report. For well owners, you would need to hire the services of a professional laboratory to know about the presence of radioactive elements in your well water. You may find home testing strips claiming to give you accurate results for radioactive elements in the water. However, you must use a certified facility for such sensitive tests as testing strips are not reliable.

Standards for Radioactive Materials in Drinking Water

Environmental Protection Agency has set the standards for drinking water as follows.

  • 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

If your results are above these limits, it is time for you to act fast and install a water treatment filter urgently.

Health Risks Associated with Radioactivity in Water

Exposure to radiation can be severe for your health. It can lead to fatal diseases such as cancer. Radon can cause lung cancer, stomach cancer. High exposure to radon and other radioactive elements can lead to bone, brain, and other forms of cancer. For pregnant women and kids, little exposure can be very harmful.  Radioactivity in water can also damage kidneys. Alpha, Beta, and Photon emitters are known to be carcinogens as well.

It is evident that radioactivity in your well water must not be ignored. You must get your water tested and put in an effective strategy to eliminate it from drinking water.

Treatments to Remove Radioactive Elements from Water

Water Quality Association has listed the following methods suitable for removing radioactive elements from your well water.

Reverse Osmosis – Reverse osmosis is an excellent way to remove radioactive elements from your well water. A lot of reverse osmosis filters are available in the market. Some of them also come with A UV light, which protects against microorganisms. A RO membrane can remove contaminants smaller than 0.001 microns. It is so small that it allows only water molecules to pass through. RO systems are up to 99% effective in removing radionuclides.

Cat-Ion Exchange Softening – You can also use a salt-based water softener to remove nuclides. Certain precautions must be followed in this regard. The regeneration process must be frequent. You must use a high-quality salt if you intend to remove radioactive elements from water. Pay special attention to the disposal of water wasted during the regeneration. You don’t want it to enter your well again. It has an efficiency of 90%.

Lime Softening – Lime softening can also be used to remove radium from water. Adding lime to water will catch the radioactive elements and form solids. The solid formed will have a high amount of radioactivity in them. This method will give you 80% accurate results. It is usually used in public systems, where they have the infrastructure to handle the lime solids.

Points of Use Systems – Some people want special protection for their children and family from radon and other radioactive elements in the water. A point of use system is installed on a single tap filtration system. It can be installed in your kitchen faucet, which you use to fill drinking water bottles. Such systems provide up to 98% results.


How can I get my water tested for radioactivity?

You must get your water tested for radioactivity every 3 years from a certified testing facility. To find out which labs are authorized to test your water for radioactivity, consult your state’s local health department. It is best to avoid home testing for radioactivity.

Is it safe to drink water with radioactive contaminants?

If the level of contaminants is below the cut-off values set by EPA and your state’s local health office, you can drink it without any worries.

What to do if I consumed water contaminated with radioactive materials?

If any such unfortunate thing has happened, you must visit your doctor/hospital and discuss the issue with them. The doctors will suggest you some tests and may prescribe some medicines.

Which is the best reverse osmosis filtration system?

iSpring’s 7-stage water filtration system is an excellent choice for people with radioactivity in well water. It can remove up to 99% of impurities from your well water and provide you with clean, pure, and healthy drinking water for your family.

Which is the best faucet water filter? 

Brita offers the best point-of-use water filter systems. You can install an additional water filter for more effective protection against radioactivity.

Final Thoughts

Once you have installed a filter to deal with radioactivity and other contaminants in your well water, we suggest you get your water tested again. The results will tell you about the working effectiveness of your well. If the levels are within the safe limit, be relaxed, and stay hydrated.

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