Uranium is an element that has been in rocks since the earth was formed. Not all rocks contain uranium, but there are some places in the world where uranium is in the bedrock. Other related elements that may be found in association with uranium include radon (Rn-222). These other elements are part of a sequence formed through a transformation (decay) process that begins with the most prevalent form of “natural” (unprocessed) uranium (U-238).
Uranium occurs naturally in some Connecticut bedrock ground water, therefore deep bedrock wells are susceptible to contamination. Shallow wells that do not reach bedrock are less susceptible to uranium contamination. Wells with high levels of uranium have been found sporadically all around Connecticut. Uranium gets into well water from bedrock that contains uranium. The amount of uranium in bedrock and well water will vary greatly from place to place and without testing, it is not possible to determine if the water can be considered safe for drinking.
The chemical properties of uranium in drinking water are of greater concern than its radioactivity. Most ingested uranium is eliminated from the body. However, a small amount is absorbed and carried through the bloodstream. Studies show that drinking water with elevated levels of uranium can affect the kidneys over time. Bathing and showering with water that contains uranium is not a health concern.
When to Test
You should test for uranium when you buy a house with a well or at the time a new well is drilled. It is possible for uranium levels in well water to fluctuate so even if one uranium test shows no uranium problem, it is a good idea to test for uranium every 5 years. If you have a treatment system to remove uranium from your water, you should test every year to be sure your treatment system is working properly.
How to Treat Wells Contaminated with Uranium
Point-of-use (POU) water treatment devices treat water at just one faucet. They differ from point-of-entry (POE) devices, which are installed on the water line as it enters the home and treat all the water that enters the home. Because uranium gets into your body only through ingestion (and not through the skin or through inhalation), it is not necessary to treat all the water in your home, but only the water you drink.
Reverse osmosis (RO) and ion exchange are the most common types of treatment systems used for uranium removal and are both very effective. Both types of treatment can be installed as POU or POE systems. However, there are other technologies that will remove uranium as well. Decisions about treatment systems depend on many factors, including what else is in your water, water usage, installation costs and maintenance costs. You should consult a water treatment expert to help you decide what treatment system is best for your situation.