Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2017CT304B

Investigation of Bedrock Well Contamination by Uranium, Radium and Radon Resulting from Deicing Salt Exchange

Institute: Connecticut
Year Established: 2017 Start Date: 2017-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $20,995 Total Non-Federal Funds: $42,724

Principal Investigators: Michael Dietz, Meredith Metcalf, Gary A. Robbins

Abstract: The amount of salt being used for road deicing has been increasing for many years nationwide and in Connecticut. As a result salt contamination of surface water and groundwater is on the rise. Our recent research in Connecticut on salt contamination has found a strong correlation between salt contamination and radium concentrations in groundwater. Sodium exchange with uranium and/or radium on rock and soil is the likely cause of this finding. The mobilization of these radionuclides and their radon progeny in groundwater in fractured crystalline rock can present a serious health hazard given the heavy reliance on bedrock wells in the State. At present the extent of this hazard is not known. In cooperation with the Connecticut Department of Public Health Laboratory and with the assistance of State health and regulatory officials, we are proposing a pilot study of this potential problem. Salt contaminated wells reported to state and local officials will be compiled. Owners will be contacted to obtain permission to sample their raw water. Neighboring wells that are not contaminated will also be sampled as controls and to allow for statistical comparative analyses. Samples will be collected in a manner to allow for field measurement of factors influencing radionuclide mobilization including pH, oxidation-reduction potential, alkalinity, electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. Laboratory analyses will include uranium, radium, radon, sodium, calcium, magnesium and chloride. Samples will be collected to evaluate the potential for radionuclide mobilization from a variety of representative rock types here in Connecticut.