What You Need to Know About Radon in Drinking Water

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. Radon may be present in both soil and water. Soil is the most common source of radon in your home. Well water that contains radon may increase the level of radon in a home. Activities — like taking showers, doing laundry, or running the dishwasher can release radon into the air.

Health concerns: Is radon harmful to my health?

Everyone is exposed to some radon in indoor and outdoor air. Breathing in radon increases your risk of getting lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Your risk of getting lung cancer from radon depends on the level of radon in the air you breathe, how long you are exposed to radon, and whether you smoke.

Over a lifetime, consuming radon in water also poses a risk of stomach cancer. However, the major danger posed by radon in water is the risk of lung cancer when radon from the water is released into the air and you breathe it in.

Source: How does radon get into my water?

Radon comes from the decay of uranium, which is naturally found in the Earth’s crust. Radon can get into your drinking water if your well is drilled into or near natural rock formations that contain uranium.

Testing: How do I know if radon is in my water?

You cannot see, smell or taste radon. Testing is the only way to know if radon is in your drinking water. You can order a radon in water test kit for $25 from the Health Department Laboratory, or you can use another certified drinking water lab to test for radon.

Because radon concentrations in well water can vary throughout the year, it can be beneficial to test more than once at different times of the year.

Test results: Is my result a problem?

To fully understand your radon risk, it is important to know your home’s radon in air result too. If the air in your home has not been tested, test your home for radon in air before considering how to reduce radon levels. Order a free radon in air test kit

The Health Department has set an advisory level for radon in water of 4,000 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). If your radon in water test result is:

  • Less than 4,000 pCi/L, you do not need to treat your water. Test your water again in five years.

  • At or above 4,000 pCi/L, take action to reduce radon levels in your home. Use the radon contribution calculator to help you determine the best fix for your home. If you decide to treat your water, contact a certified water treatment specialist.

Need help understanding your drinking water test results? Find out how to read your results

Treatment options: Can I remove or lower the levels of radon in my water?

Radon levels can be lowered or removed from drinking water. There are two types of water treatment systems that can be installed. 

  • Aeration system: An aeration system uses a fan to reduce radon in water. This system mixes your water with air inside a tank and then vents the air and radon outdoors away from the house.

  • Granular activated carbon (GAC): This filtration system uses a charcoal filter to remove the radon from the water. Install a carbon filtration system with an NSF/ANSI Standard 53 CertificationNote: The Health Department discourages the use of GAC systems to remove radon because the radon collected on the filter could create a radiation hazard.

Re-test your drinking water for radon after any treatment system is installed to make sure levels are below the health advisory level.

Financial assistance: Is there funding available to help me pay for water system or treatment?

Vermont Wastewater and Potable Water Revolving Loan Fund

This program, also known as the On-Site Loan Program, is available to certain Vermont residents for the repair or replacement of failed water supply and on-site wastewater systems. The On-Site Loan Program is funded and administered by the Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Environmental Conservation with loan underwriting and servicing provided by the Opportunities Credit Union in Winooski. Your drinking water supply has to be a failed system and you must be living in the residence on a year-round basis to be eligible. The family income cannot exceed 200% of the state median household income. For more information about eligibility and how to apply, call the On-Site Loan Program at 802-461-6051.

The NeighborWorks Alliance of Vermont

The NeighborWorks Alliance is made up of five local organizations offering full affordable housing services for income-eligible individuals. You may qualify for help from this program if you need money to install a water treatment system, drill a well, or repair or replace your septic system. For more information on eligibility, contact the local NeighborWorks Group in your region.

Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants

This program offers loans and grants to existing homeowners for well construction, repair and sealing. It's administered by the Rural Development office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program is for low-income families who live in a rural area or a community with a population of 25,000 or less. The family income cannot exceed 50% of the median county income. Individuals who are 62 years of age or older may qualify for a grant or a combination of a loan and a grant. Younger applicants are eligible only for loans.

Burlington, South Burlington, Essex Junction, Winooski and parts of Colchester are ineligible for the program. Even if your property is in an eligible area, your eligibility is still subject to income limits. For more information or to find out if your property is in an eligible area, call the USDA Rural Development Office at 802-828-6022.

Low-interest Loans for Individual Household Wells and Septic Systems

The Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project (SECAP) has partnered with RCAP Solutions (North Eastern Rural Community Assistance Partnership) to provide low-interest loans to construct, refurbish or replace individual water well systems and septic systems for eligible homeowners. Here are the requirements:

• Your residence must be in an eligible rural area, town, or community (defined as geographic area with 50,000 residents or less) in the RCAP Solutions service area of: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

• You must own (or provide recorded Lifetime Rights) and occupy the home being improved. 

• Your household limit is under the state median income limit.

• New home construction and community water systems are not eligible. 

Learn more about the loan program and fill out the form.

Please contact SERCAP staff for further information by phone at 540-345-1184 ext. 159 or email [email protected]

More Information
two pieces of paper signifying a document or PDF
Radon in Vermont Private Wells
A pointer cursor signifying a website link.
Radon in Air
Last Updated: