Uranium exceedances found in 16 per cent of water samples from Harvey area (08/11/19)

NB 1703

Nov. 19, 2008

FREDERICTON (CNB) - The results of recent tests to determine levels of uranium in water from the Harvey area are consistent with those of a study done in 1981, Health Minister Michael Murphy said today.

From May to August this year, the Department of Health conducted free tests of 525 water samples received from homes and businesses in the Village of Harvey and along Route 3 to York Mills. The tests showed that 16 per cent of the samples contained uranium in excess of the acceptable level of 20 micrograms per litre in drinking water.

"Altogether, these data are very similar to the findings of the previous study of water in the same area," Murphy said.

The previous study concluded that 23 per cent of the 86 samples taken contained levels of uranium exceeding the guideline.

"All individuals who submitted water samples to the department earlier this year were notified of their respective test results within days of providing their sample," Murphy said. "We are releasing this summary so the community can be informed of the overall results."

The Department of Health determined in May that the new tests were necessary because it was not possible to determine whether the results of the August 1981 study had been reported to participants.

Free radon-in-air testing will be conducted by the department over the winter for people in the Harvey area who registered in the summer for the service. During the winter months, conditions are optimal for the most accurate results of tests for radon.

The Department of Health also tested the recently acquired water samples to determine levels of arsenic and selenium. In 33 per cent of the samples, the tests found arsenic to be above the acceptable level of 10 micrograms per litre. None of the samples contained elevated levels of selenium.

The Harvey area has a history of elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic. In 1992, a study of arsenic in well water in southern York County found a total of 26 of 191 water samples exceeded the then guideline of 25 micrograms per litre. Most of the samples that were in excess of the guideline were taken in the Harvey Station area, and local residents were notified of the results at that time.

The Department of Health advises all private well owners to be diligent about testing their water quality regularly. Testing should be done twice annually for microbiological contamination, and every two years for inorganic compounds such as arsenic and uranium.

Radon is a gas produced naturally by uranium as it decays. Health Canada advises that homes be tested for radon gas.


MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Cumby, communications, Department of Health, 506-457-3522.