Radon Sends Ripples through Water Systems
the verge of an expected EPA rule to control radon in drinking water, a familiar
home health threat is taking on new implications and costs for homeowners and
communities. Known since the 1980s as a naturally occurring source of indoor air
pollution, radon is now being targeted for controls under the Safe Drinking Water
Act. Control measures will increase municipal water technology and maintenance
costs, to the tune of $30 million in Tucson, Arizona, for example.
is a radioactive gas and the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.,
according to U.S. EPA. The EPA estimates that radon is responsible for some 20,000
lung cancer deaths a year in the United States. The risks are most acute for cigarette
In certain areas across the country, radon found in the soil underneath
homes results in indoor air emissions at unhealthy levels. That is why EPA recommends
that home sellers and homebuyers get a radon test prior to completing a home sales
transaction, and to make sure the testing firm is familiar with EPA protocols.
The EPA now recommends limiting the annual average of radon in indoor air to 4
picocuries per liter. A picocurie is a measure of radioactive emissions.
in 1996 mandated new rules on radon in drinking water, to get at radon released
by faucets and showers into indoor air. EPA is expected to issue the rules next
month, and that's causing a stir in many communities including Tucson, Arizona.
Among other things, the new rule would require municipal water systems to achieve
the 4 picocurie limit in indoor air.
But during a meeting of the Tucson Town
Council, Tucson Water officials told the council that the Arizona Department of
Environmental Quality and other state agencies are attacking the proposed indoor
air standard as unworkable. The only alternative is to shut down wells that don't
comply with the 300-picocurie water limit in the rule. In addition, the water
utility said the city would spend up to $30 million in capital funds for equipment
needed to eradicate radon, and $1 million a year to maintain operations.
the money coming from? The homeowner, of course. In most communities, the utility
would have to raise user rates to cover the capital and maintenance costs associated
with the new rule.
Sources used to create this article include writer Maureen
O'Connell and The Arizona Daily Star.