Radioactive contamination found in well
Water doesn't pose imminent threat

COVINGTON - A well supplying water to Highlands at Haynes Creek subdivision on Mount Zion Road has been found to have radioactive contaminant levels that exceed federal standards.

The well was a backup and was not used as a primary source for drinking water, according to Georgia Environmental Protection Division spokesman Kevin Chambers.

"This does not pose an imminent health threat," Chambers said.

The well contains radionuclides, which are naturally occurring and are caused when small amounts of uranium or radium dissolve from the underlying rocks.

The well exceeds federal standards for uranium and total alpha particles. The occurrence of radionuclides in wells is sporadic, and wells in close proximity often contain different levels, Chambers said.

"Residents can drink the water and use the water for bathing, cooking and washing. The main well was tested and not found to have radionuclides," he said.

If the water were consumed, at a rate of eight to 10 glasses per day for a year, the amount of radiation ingested would be equal to one chest X-ray, Chambers said, adding that the body passes most of the contaminants.

The well system in Highlands at Haynes Creek serves 90 houses, or about 240 residents. Because it is considered a public water system, it is subject to monitoring by the EPD.

The system is owned by North Georgia Water Systems Inc., a company owned by Dan Elder III.

It will be up to the system owner to determine the best way to address the problem, Chambers said.

The owner can permanently discontinue use of the well, connect to another public water system or explore treatment options to remove radionuclides.

A third well is being evaluated to determine if it will be suitable for drinking water, Chambers said.

"It is the responsibility of the public water system to notify all their customers. The owner of the public water system has placed a notice in the customers' bills and has provided more detailed information to those customers who have requested it," he said.

Signs have also been posted at the entrance of the subdivision.

The EPD is monitoring the well on a quarterly basis until four consecutive samples test below the federal drinking water limits.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has implemented more stringent regulations for drinking water standards that are causing systems that would normally pass muster to receive notices to reduce radionuclide levels, Chambers said.

Twenty-six water systems in Georgia received similar notices recently, he said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.