Bethpage Water District Blog

Monday, May 13, 2019

What is Radium?... and some facts to know about it...


Radium (Ra) is a naturally occurring radioactive element which can be found in low levels in nearly all soil, water and rocks on the planet. Radium can be present in several forms, called isotopes. The most common isotopes in our groundwater are Ra-226 and Ra-228.

Radioactivity is measured in units called Curies. One Picocurie is equivalent to one-trillionth of a Curie. To put the relative size of one trillionth into
perspective, consider that if the Earth were reduced to one trillionth of its diameter, the “picoEarth” would be smaller in diameter than a speck of dust. Tens of thousands of Picocuries are naturally occurring in our bodies. Our laboratory samples are reported as a cumulative total of Radium 226 & Radium 228 combined.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has established a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for radium in public water supplies of 5 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The MCL for radium has been set substantially below the level for which health effects have been observed and is therefore assumed to be protective of public health.

The normal range for Radium in our geologic area ranges from 0-1.5 piC/l. All of the drinking water from our wells have shown to be within this range and the majority of them are at a level well below 1 piC/l. In 2013, a well at Sophia Street was sampled and the levels detected began to range higher than the normal range but were still within the USEPA guidelines. At that time, Bethpage Water District voluntarily removed this well from service because we suspected this sample result was greater than what would be considered a natural event and we also suspected it was due to the Northrop/Grumman Plume.

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