Program to aid residents with radium in water

Housing agency directed to make report on creating plan for loans and grants

April 04, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A proposal that aims to financially assist residents who have high levels of radium in their well water was approved as part of the state budget yesterday.

Proposed by Del. John R. Leopold, a Pasadena Republican, the language in the budget directs the state Department of Housing and Community Development to prepare a report that discusses creating a loan and grant program that would reimburse residents, on a sliding scale, for water-treatment systems.

Residents would be eligible for the program if their wells had levels higher than the Environmental Protection Agency standard of 15 picocuries of radium per liter of water.

Radium is a naturally occurring carcinogen associated with bone tumors. The treatment systems, which can cost from $500 to $1,500, can help reduce radium levels, Leopold said.

"There could be no greater priority than public health and safety," he said.

Lester Ettlinger, chairman of the Pasadena Citizens Task Force on Radium in Well Water, said yesterday that he hopes the program will encourage residents to test their wells and get water-treatment system if necessary.

"If this will make it easier for people to protect themselves against drinking high concentrations of radium, it's exactly the right thing to do," Ettlinger said. "Any assistance that can make an expensive program easier to swallow is good."

Leopold originally thought that a state loan program created to help residents install or repair indoor plumbing could be applied toward water-treatment systems. The income levels for the program were too low for the affected residents to qualify, he said.

Pasadena residents and elected officials have been trying to come up with a solution since elevated levels of radium were detected in 1997 and 1998 in wells in Crownsville, Millersville, Pasadena, Severn and Severna Park. Health officials do not consider the radium levels a health emergency.

The Pasadena Citizens Task Force on Radium in Well Water was created this year to study radium levels and options for treating the water.

By midyear, the seven-member group plans to make a proposal to County Council Chairwoman Shirley Murphy.

Some residents think the ideal solution would be to extend public water from where it ends at Lake Shore Plaza onto the peninsula, a project that would cost millions. Citizens Against Radium Poisoning began a petition drive in the fall to support the cause.

Other residents fear that would bring more development to the area.

"The reality of a long-term solution is that public water is not going to happen in the near future because of the justifiable concern of the increased growth in the peninsula," Leopold said. "So this seems to be a pragmatic and a realistic effort to try and provide assistance."

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