(Host) The state has warned Marshfield residents not to drink water from the village system because it’s contaminated with trace levels of uranium. Officials say the uranium occurs naturally in some rock formations. But the levels in the Marshfield water system exceed state safety standards.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Marshfield tested its village water recently and discovered that it contains elevated levels of radioactive uranium. The village system has about 145 connections that serve about 350 people in the Washington County town.
Jean Nicolai is operations and compliance chief with the state Water Supply Division:
(Nicolai) “The system well source was permitted back in 1995 and the system put online in late 2001. And they had started to conduct routine monitoring in 2002 and that’s how they discovered they had elevated levels.”
(Dillon) Uranium is often found in granite bedrock and sometimes shows up in deep wells. Doctor William Bress is the state toxicologist with the Vermont Health Department. He says there’s a slight risk of increased cancer rates from exposure to uranium in drinking water:
(Bress) “The other one, and more immediate concern is kidney damage. Uranium is a lot like cadmium and lead in that it goes through your blood stream and then through the kidney and can cause damage in there. So the actual drinking water standard that we use is based on protecting the kidney for short term exposures.”
(Dillon) Bress says the state’s safety standard is set at a conservative level. He says that kidney damage doesn’t usually occur until the levels are much higher.
The Marshfield water can’t be used for drinking or cooking until further notice. The state says the village will look at several options, including treatment or blending the water supply with another source to dilute the uranium levels.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.