U.S. Water News Online
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- As many as 26 cities, towns and
villages in the state have drinking water with high levels of
uranium, according to Nebraska Health and Human Services.
"It's been a stealth problem, and it's hitting small communities
hard," said Anne Pamperl, NHHS radionuclides rule manager.
The Environmental Protection Agency standard for uranium is 30
parts per billion, based on consuming two liters of contaminated
water each day.
Higher levels increase the risk of kidney failure and cancer, the
It's considered safe to drink contaminated water for one to two
years as long as test readings are 60 parts per billion or lower,
said NHHS health risk assessor Sue Dempsey. If the concentration is
higher than 60, people should drink treated or bottled water, she
Deposits from glaciers and volcanic ash make uranium a naturally
occurring mineral statewide. Its highest concentrations are found in
current or past river valleys where water carried the mineral,
The state last year identified 43 municipalities that were likely
to have uranium issues, and tests revealed that 26 of those cities
and towns had elevated levels. Thirteen municipalities repeatedly
tested high for uranium and have been ordered to find new water
sources or develop a treatment plan.
A filtration technique known as reverse osmosis is considered the
most effective way to remove uranium from private and public water
However, uranium removal can be costly.
McCook, one of the largest cities facing the problem, may have to
spend $1 million for water treatment.
Shelton recently replaced its contaminated well with a deeper one
that is uranium-free, and Alda plans to do the same next year.
Phillips shut down a contaminated well and is using one
uranium-free well to serve its 330 residents.
Grocery and convenience stores and bars and restaurants are using
a reverse-osmosis system in Bridgeport, but the city still is
studying solutions for private residences.
Colon is considering a plan where it would buy water from Wahoo,
and Bruno may buy water from David City. Cambridge, Indianola and
Bartley are talking about sharing a new wellfield.
"We're encouraging cooperation," Pamperl said.
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