Tests show too much uranium in water
published in the Omaha World-Herald

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - As many as 26 cities, towns and villages in the state have drinking water with high levels of uranium, according to Nebraska Health and Human Services.

"It's been a stealth problem, and it's hitting small communities hard," said Anne Pamperl, the department's radionuclides rules manager.

The Environmental Protection Agency standard for uranium is 30 parts per billion, based on consuming two liters of contaminated water each day.

Higher levels increase the risk of kidney failure and cancer, the EPA said.

It's considered safe to drink contaminated water for one to two years as long as test readings are 60 parts per billion or lower, said Sue Dempsey, the health risk assessor for Nebraska Health and Human Services. If a reading is higher than 60, people should drink treated or bottled water, she said.

Deposits from glaciers and volcanic ash make uranium a naturally occurring mineral statewide. Its highest concentrations are found in current or past river valleys where water carried the mineral, Pamperl said.

The state last year identified 43 municipalities that were likely to have uranium issues, and tests revealed that 26 of those cities and towns had elevated levels. Thirteen municipalities repeatedly tested high for uranium and have been ordered to find new water sources or develop a treatment plan.

A filtration technique known as reverse osmosis is considered the most effective way to remove uranium from private and public water supplies.

However, uranium removal can be costly.

McCook, one of the largest cities facing the problem, may have to spend $1 million for water treatment.

Shelton recently replaced its contaminated well with a deeper one that is uranium-free, and Alda plans to do the same next year.

Phillips shut down a contaminated well and is using one uranium-free well to serve its 330 residents.

Grocery and convenience stores and bars and restaurants are using a reverse-osmosis system in Bridgeport, but the city still is studying solutions for private residences.

Colon is considering a plan where it would buy water from Wahoo, and Bruno may buy water from David City. Cambridge, Indianola and Bartley are talking about sharing a new wellfield.

"We're encouraging cooperation," Pamperl said.

top | Home

Click here to go to the Home Page