Notices go out about uranium levels in water

29 10 2008


CRYSTAL OWENS | Online Athens

Nearly two dozen utilities across Northeast Georgia are telling customers that their water contains radioactive contaminants.

But, they warn, staying hydrated is no more dangerous than a trip to the dentist. A change in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations has required government officials throughout the country, including 34 Georgia municipalities, to notify residents of the uranium levels in their water.

The EPA last month lowered the maximum amount of uranium allowed in drinking water from 30 to 20 parts per billion, which in turn, by federal law, forced those municipalities with uranium levels over twice the 20-ppb limit to notify residents.

In Lexington – one of three municipalities in Oglethorpe County affected by the change – the water contains 48 ppb of uranium, said Mayor David Montgomery.

Lexington residents get their drinking water from four sources, but a well on Georgia Highway 77 South tested positive for higher uranium levels than the other wells, Montgomery said.

The city’s utility is drawing less water from that well while officials test the groundwater, a process that could take months, he said. If uranium levels still are high, the city will stop using the well.

Maxeys’ officials, along with leaders in Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Franklin, Jackson and Madison counties, also notified residents of the change.

Water customers should not be alarmed by the uranium levels, said Ted Jackson, state Environmental Protection Division environmental emergency and radiation program manager.

The uranium exposure to a person who drinks eight to 10 glasses of water each day for a year is equivalent to one chest X-ray per year, Jackson said.

“The risk in the grand scheme of things is not large,” he said.

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