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Radon, uranium testing spikes with surge in home sales

For Portland native Kate McCabe, moving from a home hooked into the public water system to one with a private well was as much about having safe drinking water as it was about expanding the space for her growing family. So when the inspector for the house she and her husband planned to buy in North Yarmouth recommended thorough testing of the air and water, McCabe, who has a 2-year-old and another baby on the way, readily agreed. And she's glad she did. The test results showed extremely high air and water radon and water uranium readings, and she almost backed out of the deal.

"I tried to talk to as many people as I could as fast as I could," says McCabe, 35. "I called at least 10 different companies." She decided to negotiate with the sellers to pay for air and water mitigation systems, and after they agreed to pay the nearly $18,000 expense, she agreed to the sale and plans to move in toward the end of September, after the systems are installed.

Scientists to Share Water Research

Scientists from state environmental and public health organizations and the University of Maine will present research on water quality issues at a private well symposium next month in Connecticut.

John Peckenham, director of the Maine Water Resources Research Institute at the University of Maine Senator George J. Mitchell Center, will talk about analyzing contaminants in private drinking water wells in Maine.

Peckenham said state and federal governments have standards for drinking water quality, but there are few laws requiring people to test their wells.

The Kennebec Journal reported this month that the number of people in Maine who test their wells has improved since 2004, when only about 26 percent of Maine households reported knowing whether they had tested their wells. That number increased to more than 40 percent in 2009 after the state amped up its efforts to inform people, according to Andy Smith, state toxicologist.

Uranium Levels High in Lake Region, Maine Waters

Uranium Levels High in Lake Region, Maine Waters

RAYMOND - Raymond residents Howard and Eileen Stiles are warning area homeowners on private wells to check their water for uranium.

After hearing from some of their neighbors who found high uranium content in their well water, the longtime residents of Raymond's Deep Cove Road, located off Jordan Bay, had their water tested twice. Both tests came back with nearly identical results: 68 micrograms of uranium per milliliter, more than twice the federal Environmental Protection Agency standard of 30 mg/l.

While the human body can eliminate excess uranium from the system within a matter of weeks, according to the World Health Organization, ingestion of uranium over long periods can result in cancerous mutation of kidney cells due to uranium build-up.