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Well Water Radium Study: The Story of Howard County, Maryland


In early 2005, the Howard County Health Department began a sampling initiative to evaluate the potential presence of elevated naturally occurring radionuclides in individual drinking well water supplies of Howard County residents. Earlier preliminary test findings from the U.S. Geological Survey and subsequent discussions with the Maryland Department of the Environment led to sampling for gross alpha (GA) and gross beta (GB) particles, plus confirming radium-226/-228 for both existing and newly developed residential properties. In 2009, sampling focused in and directly around the portion of the county containing the Baltimore Gneiss geological formation. More than 2,061 properties were tested with 3,091 samples collected and analyzed. Greater than 19% of properties sampled had elevated GA and/or GB levels, while select data combinations for untreated GA, GB, and radium-226/-228 indicated an elevated combined radium-226/-228 in 42.4% of those results. Also revealing were results with elevated radium-226/-228 with GB levels well below the current recommended standard. In this special report, we describe ongoing testing efforts and treatment effectiveness for residents within Howard County.


  • Sarah E. Collins, MS, LEHS, Howard County Health Department, John Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Bertram F. Nixon, MS, LEHS/REHS, Bureau of Environmental Health, Howard County Health Department
  • Johnia Curtis, MPH, Bureau of Assessment, Planning, and Communications, Howard County Health Department
Volume#: 83.10
Page #: 14-21
Publication Month: June 2021 

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