210Po in Nevada groundwater and its relation to gross alpha radioactivity

Ground Water



Polonium-210 (210Po) is a highly toxic alpha emitter that is rarely found in groundwater at activities exceeding 1 pCi/L. 210Po activities in 63 domestic and public-supply wells in Lahontan Valley in Churchill County in northern Nevada, United States, ranged from 0.01 ± 0.005 to 178 ± 16 pCi/L with a median activity of 2.88 pCi/L. Wells with high 210Po activities had low dissolved oxygen concentrations (less than 0.1 mg/L) and commonly had pH greater than 9. Lead-210 activities are low and aqueous 210Po is unsupported by 210Pb, indicating that the 210Po is mobilized from aquifer sediments. The only significant contributors to alpha particle activity in Lahontan Valley groundwater are 234/238U, 222Rn, and 210Po. Radon-222 activities were below 1000 pCi/L and were uncorrelated with 210Po activity. The only applicable drinking water standard for 210Po in the United States is the adjusted gross alpha radioactivity (GAR) standard of 15 pCi/L. 210Po was not volatile in a Nevada well, but volatile 210Po has been reported in a Florida well. Additional information on the volatility of 210Po is needed because GAR is an inappropriate method to screen for volatile radionuclides. About 25% of the samples had 210Po activities that exceed the level associated with a lifetime total cancer risk of 1× 10−4 (1.1 pCi/L) without exceeding the GAR standard. In cases where the 72-h GAR exceeds the uranium activity by more than 5 to 10 pCi/L, an analysis to rule out the presence of 210Po may be justified to protect human health even though the maximum contaminant level for adjusted GAR is not exceeded.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title 210Po in Nevada groundwater and its relation to gross alpha radioactivity
Series title Ground Water
DOI 10.1111/j.1745-6584.2010.00688.x
Volume 49
Issue 2
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Publisher location Hoboken, NJ
Contributing office(s) Nevada Water Science Center
Description 12 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Ground Water
First page 160
Last page 171
Country United States
State Nevada
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