Drinking winter well-water (concerns with radon, water quality, and public health)

Op Ed by Scott Fernandez  M.Sc. Biology  chemistry/


There is “no safe level of radon” (USEPA). Our drinking water is now 100% from the Columbia South Shore Well Field (CSSW) that is notorious for its levels of radioactive radon. (Feb.13 Portland Water Bureau begins delivering 100 percent groundwater from the Columbia South Shore Well Field. Portland Water Bureau Blog).

Poor decisions made by upper management of the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) have placed our drinking water and public health of Portland citizens at great risk from radioactive materials. Our drinking water from the CSSW is subject to toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as radon, pharmaceuticals and heavy metals.

We need our open reservoirs re-activated immediately to preserve public health. The open reservoirs are barriers to contaminants getting into our drinking water distribution system; allowing toxic gases to escape harmlessly and carcinogenic chemicals to be broken down by sunlight.

Without open reservoirs to efficiently remove gases (radon, chloroform) and chemical toxins, our drinking water remains at risk.

Portland is not the green and healthy city we once thought it was. While our current toxic outdoor air crisis has brought attention to a community wide public health wake-up call, we need to address our indoor air as it relates to our drinking water.

Women and children are especially at risk from radioactive materials. Radon and its 12 radioactive decay particles can pass through placenta and into a developing child. Chloroform gas from drinking water also crosses placenta, resulting in concentrations in fetal blood as well as maternal.

Toxic and carcinogenic chemical exposure levels established for safe drinking water are based on adult standards (USEPA). Children are not smaller adults and therefore the chemical risk is much higher. Children have a higher metabolism and increased cell activity.

Radon decays into radioactive components, such as Lead with a 22 year half-life. A toxic substance that can affect people of any age lead is especially harmful to children and pregnant women. It accumulates in the body, so even small amounts can pose an increasing health hazard over time.

Radon exposures at 4 picocuries from drinking water, showers, washing machine, and toilets throughout your home, generates 2 million radioactive particle decays per minute in 1000 sq. ft..(USGS)

Why are we drinking radioactive water? PWB says they found Cryptosporidium in Bull Run water. Portland has not found Cryptosporidium in our water for many years.

All of a sudden, Cryptosporidium appears in January as City of Portland budget season begins and PWB talks about building a treatment plant; a treatment plant that is clearly unnecessary and unneeded. It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for a public health problem that does not exist.

Built in 1895, Bull Run water system has never had a drinking water public health problem, ever. Cryptosporidium drinking water issues come from catastrophic sewage events that cannot apply to Portland/Bull Run drinking water. We have a pristine water source that has no agricultural, municipal, or industrial sewage exposures.

Poor upper management decisions in the PWB have lead to radioactive exposures in drinking water and indoor air ending up in our homes, schools, businesses, daycare centers, and places of work.

Radon is 7 times heavier than air (USGS) and will initially settle in lower parts of a room. That low air space is the highest health risk for children and pets.

Children have higher respiration rates than adults. Smaller airways and lungs in infants and children have lesser air capacity compared to that of adults. Their normal breaths are not as deep and therefore breathe faster. 30-40 breaths per minute in infants, 20-30 toddlers to 5 years and 12-20 later in life.

Is this what we want for current and future generations, – exposing them to high risk radioactive materials in each inhalation? Radon is a public health problem that exists. Cryptosporidium is not a public health problem in Bull Run drinking water, as proven for over 100 years.

Please call Portland City Council Commissioners and Mayor Wheeler at 503.823.4120 about concerns with radon, water quality, and public health. 

See bullrunwaiver.org.

Drinking winter well-water (concerns with radon, water quality, and public health)

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