Excessive uranium contamination in major U.S. aquifers puts 2 million Americans at risk of radiation damage

Friday, November 13, 2015 by

An excessive amount of pollutants were discovered to plague aquifers in California and the Great Plains. According to an analysis conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, an estimated 2 million Americans throughout the West Coast and Midwest live above aquifers that are contaminated by natural uranium linked to human-contributed nitrate.[1]

The researchers collected an estimated 275,000 groundwater samples in the High Plains and Central Valley aquifers. Public water systems are responsible for ensuring the water has a minimum amount of contaminates before supplying the product to people. Millions of Californians rely on these aquifers for water; an estimated one-third of the state’s drinking water is provided by public wells. The researchers discovered that many Americans live less than two-thirds of a mile away from wells with contaminates that exceed public safety standards.[2]

Natural nitrate and uranium

The culprit behind the contaminate water is nitrate. An estimated 78 percent of the pollutants are caused by nitrate, which is a contaminate found in fertilizers and animal waste. Natural nitrate produces uranium. Just because it is natural doesn’t mean it is safe. Uranium emits gamma radiation, which increases the risk for various cancers. Drinking water contaminated by uranium leads to kidney and bone damage, as well as elevated blood pressure.[2,3]

“It needs to be recognized that uranium is a widespread contaminant. And we are creating this problem by producing a primary contaminant that leads to a secondary one,” co-author Karrie Weber, assistant professor of biological, earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said in a recent press release.

The numbers speak for themselves. Aquifers in the Midwest had uranium levels that were 89 times higher than safety levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency, and nitrate concentrations 189 times greater than maximum contaminant levels. The situation was even worse in California, with uranium levels 180 times greater than safety limits.[1]

Major aquifers contaminated

The Ogallala Aquifer is the aquifer in the Midwest found to have dangerous levels of pollutants. It is the largest aquifer in the United States, providing water to eight states, including South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. In addition, the Central Valley is California’s primary source for agriculture. The aquifer is in even heavier demand than usual, due to the state’s ongoing drought. The results of the study are sobering, given the hundreds of thousands of people who are dependent upon the two aquifers. Together, the aquifers supply water to approximately one-sixth of U.S. crops.[2]

These aquifers fuel both the public health and the economy. As Weber notes, “When you start thinking about how much water is drawn from these aquifers, it’s substantial relative to anywhere else in the world. These two aquifers are economically important —  they play a significant role in feeding the nation — but they’re also important for health. What’s the point of having water if you can’t drink it or use it for irrigation?”[2]

These findings underscore the importance of having decision-makers and experts to keep track of the amount of uranium in aquifers. It can take decades for contaminates to become manifest in the public water supply. By the same token, it can take decades for the maladies attached to contaminated drinking water to become apparent, as well. To learn more about how you can forage your own water, visit NaturalNews.com.

Sources:

NewsRoom.unl.edu

RT.com

Pubs.acs.org


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