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South Carolina residents worry about proposal to treat radium in groundwater

Paraphrased by
Steve Waldrop
August 8, 2003

Ralph Rodgers is considering whether to install filters to block radium in his drinking water. He is one of dozens of Lexington County well users signing up for state-recommended inspections.

The best solution for Mr. Rodgers would be hooking up to drinking water from Lexington, three miles to the east. But the city isn't extending water lines in that direction yet.

State officials say the health hazards are low. Drinking water containing the maximum amount of radium considered safe is the equivalent of a yearly chest X-ray, officials said. An increased risk of bone cancer comes from drinking two liters of that water daily for 70 years.

"Some people feel comfortable with this risk while others don't, said Michael Moore, a water analyst at the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

DHEC recommended checks after finding traces of the naturally occurring radioactive element in wells. Radium cannot be seen, smelled or tasted.

Lexington County, is in the middle of a geologic belt from Aiken to the Charlotte, N.C., suburbs where radium appears, officials said.

Tests of 20 wells across the county found some wells had radium levels slightly above the maximum safety standard.

Officials don't know how many wells are in Lexington County.