Radon in Drinking Water

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 air with radon increases a person’s risk of getting lung cancer. A person’s lung cancer risk due to radon depends on the level of radon in the air they breathe, how long they are exposed, and whether or not they are a smoker.

Over a lifetime, consuming radon in water also poses a risk of stomach cancer. The major danger posed by radon in water is the risk of lung cancer when radon escapes from the water and is breathed in.

If you smoke and your home has high levels of radon, your risk of getting lung cancer is especially high. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 86% of radon-related, lung-cancer deaths occur among current or former smokers. Learn more about radon, smoking and lung cancer

Source: How does radon get into my water?

Since radon comes from the decay of uranium, which is naturally found in the Earth’s crust, it 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 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?

The Health Department has set an advisory level for radon in water of 4,000 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) and recommends the following:

  • If the result of the radon in water test is less than 4,000 pCi/L, you do not need to treat your water, but test your water again in five years.
  • If your radon in water result is at or above 4,000 pCi/L, consider treating your water.
  • Test your home for radon in air. Breathing radon in air poses more of a health risk than drinking radon in water.

About 10,000 pCi/L of radon in water will increase the radon level in air by 1.0 pCi/L. If you have tested both your indoor air and your water for radon, using the Radon Contribution Calculator may help you estimate how much of the radon in air is due to radon in the water supply and how much is due to air entering the home through the foundation. Learn more about radon in air

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. The Health Department discourages the use of GAC systems to remove radon because the radon collected on the filter can pose a radiological hazard to both the homeowner and the technicians who service the system. Install a carbon filtration system with an NSF/ANSI Standard 53 Certification.

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.