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Drinking Water in the Village of Ransom, Illinois

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Heather Shoven

Important Health Message

For many years, the drinking water in Ransom, IL has contained more radium than the federal government allows.  EPA is concerned because long-term exposure increases the risk of developing certain health problems.  The Village of Ransom must find a permanent way to reduce radium levels in the water supply.

In the meantime, residents may choose to take precautionary steps to reduce your radium exposure.  This is a personal decision based on cost, convenience and one's view of risk.

How radium can affect your health

Over-exposure to radium increases the risks of developing certain cancers, particularly bone cancer. Over time, radium can damage bones, tissue or genetic material.

Children are at a greater risk

Drinking water containing radium at high levels for a long period of time increases the risk of cancer, particularly bone cancer.  The body recognizes radium as calcium and deposits significant amounts to bones after repeated ingestion.  Since children are still growing, they are at a higher risk of absorbing larger amounts of radium in their bones, especially if exposure occurs during a critical growth stage. 

How to reduce your risk

You may decide to use bottled water for cooking and drinking. You may also choose to install a water softener or a home water treatment unit. For example, ion exchange or reverse osmosis devices can reduce radium concentrations. Please note that boiling water does not remove radium.  In fact, Radium is a mineral, which does not evaporate, and boiling the water will increase the concentration of radium in the water.

Help for choosing home treatment devices

If you would like help selecting the size and type of treatment device best suited for your home, contact the Water Quality Association Exit EPA Disclaimer 630-505-0160.

For information on the effectiveness of a particular home treatment unit, contact the National Sanitation Foundation Exit EPA Disclaimer 800-673-8010.

What EPA is doing

EPA has ordered Ransom to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and reduce the amount of radium in the village water.  EPA has issued several legal warnings and enforcement orders and has offered its assistance since 2005, but village officials have not yet complied. EPA's most recent enforcement order required the village to reduce radium levels by the end of 2011.

EPA officials held an availability session on Wednesday, April 4, 2012, to answer questions from anyone who had concerns about radium in their drinking water.

What is radium?

Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive element and known carcinogen that usually is present at low levels in rocks, soils, and groundwater. In Ransom, and much of northern Illinois, radium levels are higher than other areas.

What is the maximum level of radium allowed?

EPA uses a measurement called a "picocurie" to describe the amount of radium in water. The maximum level of radium allowed by the EPA in drinking water is 5 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Ransom water has had levels as high as 16.8 pCi/L.

What are the radium levels in Ransom's drinking water?

Ransom is required to measure the levels of radium in its drinking water every quarter. Compliance is based on the average concentration of radium over four quarters, which is called the running annual average (RAA). A system is in violation if the RAA is greater than 5 pCi/L, which is the maximum level of radium allowed by EPA. Below is Ransom’s data for the most recent compliance period.

Compliance Period Radium Level (pCi/L)
Running Annual Average (RAA) 14
2nd Quarter 2015 11.8
1st Quarter 2015 15.1
4th Quarter 2014 16.8
3rd Quarter 2014 11

You may view all of Ransom’s water monitoring data for radium through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water Watch.Exit EPA Disclaimer

Should I be concerned?

Ransom residents have been drinking water with more than 5 pCi/L for a long time. That means your risk from radium exposure is higher than for people in communities with no radium problem.

Showering/Bathing/Hand-washing should not cause any health problems because radium emits radiation particles that can only travel short distances and therefore, are unable to penetrate the skin. However, radium can cause harm after ingestion since the emitted particles are in contact with internal organs. The risk of developing health problems immediately is low but that risk increases the longer one drinks contaminated water at high concentrations.  Ransom residents have been drinking contaminated water for decades.

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader, available as a free download, to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more about PDF, and for a link to the free Acrobat Reader.

Important Health Information Regarding Your Drinking Water (PDF) (1pg, 41K) March 2012

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