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High Levels of Radium Found in PA Stream Near Drinking Water Supply

Pittsburgh's Action News 4 reported yesterday that high levels of radiation—up to 60 times higher than the maximum allowed in drinking water—were found in Ten Mile Creek, which flows into the Monongahela River in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Ken Dufalla of the Izaak Walton League conservation group has been taking samples from 10 Mile Creek for years, frequently finding high levels of total dissolved solids, according to Action News 4.

“I wouldn't touch it. As you can see, I try to keep my hands off it all I can because I don't know what's in this water,” Dufalla told the Pittsburgh news station.

Dufalla pressured the Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to do comprehensive testing. The DEC results showed levels of radium 226 and radium 228 totaling 327 picocuries per liter at one location, and 301 picocuries per liter of radium 226 at another location—meaning both samples had 60 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standard of 5 picocuries per liter.

Ten Mile Creek feeds into the Mon River near Fredericktown and less than a mile down river is a water treatment plant, which has regulators and residents very concerned.

Action News 4 interviewed John Stolz, a biologist at Duquesne University, who says radium can be hazardous.

“The reality is, if it's getting into the water that is being used as a source of drinking water, then it is a problem,” Stolz said, since standard filtering process does not easily get rid of radium.

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Drinking water isn't the only concern. "The Izaak Walton League canceled plans to stock 10 Mile Creek with trout this year after consulting with state officials," said reporter Paul Van Osdol.

“Do you want to eat fish that has radiation in it? It's that simple,” Dufalla said.

Finding the source of the radiation is now a top priority for the DEP. Stolz told Van Osdol, the test results offer a clue.

“It's highly suggestive that it may be due to drilling operations, or at least the wastewater,” Stolz said.

However, gas industry officials dismiss that theory, saying there is no evidence that fracking wastewater is being illegally dumped into abandoned mines or streams, according to the news station.

“That stuff coming out of there will eventually get in your drinking water in Pittsburgh. Eventually it's going to get there,” Dufalla told Van Osdol.

Van Osdol finished his news cast by sharing with the other news casters in the studio that, "radium does not go away quickly. The half-life for radium 226 is 1,600 years, meaning even then it will still be half as potent at it is today."

"So what happens if you drink water that has radium in it?," asked his co-host.

Van Osdol answered, "Well it's not good. Studies have shown that people exposed to high levels of radium for extended periods of time have a wide variety of diseases ranging from anemia and cataracts to bone, liver and breast cancer."

Watch the news report here:

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