Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007

Poolesville’s water system on track to compliance

State may determine compliance by the end of the month

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Poolesville’s water supply may be officially declared safe from high levels of radiation-emitting elements as early as this month.

The town, which is connected to a well system, has been testing its water since the Maryland Department of the Environment detected elevated alpha emitting radionuclide levels in three of Poolesville’s nine wells in November 2005. The monitoring has confirmed that all is clear with the town’s water, which has never been out of compliance, according to Kathy Mihm, a geologist with S.S. Papadopoulos & Associates of Bethesda.

At Monday night’s commissioners meeting, Mihm said that the state could formally determine compliance by the end of September, though further monitoring may be required.

Alpha emitting radionuclides are naturally occurring compounds that emit alpha radiation when they decay, Mihm said. Alpha radiation is not radioactive, although those who drink water with high levels of alpha emitters over an extended period of time may develop an increased risk of cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The wells were tested after the EPA established new monitoring requirements for gross alpha particle radioactivity in community water systems.

On Sept. 10, the town was notified of possibly elevated uranium levels in the three wells, though this is also no reason for concern, Mihm said. Uranium, a naturally occurring radioactive metal often found in groundwater, is measured separately from other alpha emitters because there are different standards, she said.

Mihm said that the results were based on converted uranium activity analyses, which often produce false positives because the EPA is protecting against a worst-case scenario.

‘‘That data is a screening, essentially. It’s an estimate, not an actual measurement,” she said. The town in is compliance for uranium levels using actual measurements, she said.

Signs OK on weekends

Also at the meeting, the commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance allowing retailers to put up temporary signs advertising services on the weekend. Businesses not open on the weekend can erect temporary signs on two weekdays. Retailers must get a permit from the town’s Sign Review Board, and permits can be revoked if the terms of the agreement are not followed.

Monday resigns

Patricia Monday, vice chairwoman of Poolesville’s five-member Planning Commission, has resigned, Commissioner Jim Brown reported. Brown said that Monday, who was elected vice chairwoman in December 2004, stepped down because of time constraints.