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City of Seaford learns of elevated radium in drinking water


The City of Seaford has alerted residents that one of its wells exceeded the EPA’s limit for radium. 

Radium is a naturally-occurring radioactive metal that can be found in soil and rocks. Exposure to higher levels over a long period of time can cause cancer, anemia and tooth and eye problems, according to the CDC. 


The EPA’s maximum contaminant level for combined radium 226/228 in drinking water is 5 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). One of Seaford’s wells averaged 5.6 pCi/L over the past several months. 


The City says the water is safe to drink and use without boiling or any other corrective actions. State public health officials confirm that water from the affected well is not currently entering the municipal water supply.


“If you have specific health concerns, consult your doctor,” the City’s website reads. “If you have a severely compromised immune system, have an infant, are pregnant, or are elderly, you may be at increased risk and should seek advice from your health care providers about drinking this water.


Seaford Public Works Director Berley Mears III says the City is not aware of any particular source of the radium. He says the affected well has been offline since the end of last month. 


“Our stance on it right now is that we’re going to leave it off until we figure out what we’re going to do going forward,” he said. “We’re talking to the engineers trying to find out what the best option is.”


Mears says the City may consider treating the water or abandoning the well and relocating it somewhere else in town. 


“It’s not like something was spilled or something we did wrong, or anything like that,” he said. “It’s just how the rocks and the soil are breaking down underneath and around the well. So there’s nothing really we can do about it.”


The City says it learned of the violation Aug. 2, and posted a public notice to its website Aug. 12. The affected well remained shut off during that time. Mears says mailers also went out to customers.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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