Conclusions

  • Several aeration methods exist or are being developed to remove radon from drinking water. Aeration was designated as the best available technology by EPA in its 1991 proposed radon rule; however, some issues and secondary effects are associated with these technologies. They discharge radon into the air (intermedia pollution), and the extent to which the off-gas emissions will be regulated is not clear. Removing radon from the off-gas is much more difficult and expensive than removing it from water. Although aeration is, in general, a straightforward technology to use, aeration of groundwater that contains dissolved species, such as iron, can lead to the formation of precipitates (scale) that can cause operational problems, aesthetic concerns, and disposal problems (for example, iron precipitates enriched with long-lived radionuclides).
  • GAC was not listed as a best available technology by EPA in the 1991 proposed radon rule, but it might be an option for small systems that require only minor treatment to meet the MCL. Several issues and secondary effects are associated with GAC. The primary one is retention of radionuclides, which can lead to substantial gamma emissions from the unit and pose a potential problem of radiation exposure for plant operators. Equivalent gamma doses from GAC units that remove radon from public water supplies should be predicted with an extended-source model that can address more-complex geometries. Accumulation of radionuclides can also lead to potential disposal problems for the spent GAC. Both those issues are most problematic when radon loadings are high (that is when treated flows are high or large amounts of radon are retained on the GAC).
  • The treated water leaving aeration and GAC water-treatment systems might require disinfection on the basis of the pending GWDR. If chlorination is used as the disinfection method, trihalomethanes, which are known to cause cancer in rats and mice, could be created. The committee estimated that the average lifetime risk associated with disinfection byproducts formed during chlorination of groundwater is on the order of 5 × 10-5.
  • Storage, blending, loss in the water-distribution system, and other newly emerging technologies (such as vacuum deaeration and hollow-fiber membrane systems) are not likely to be major alternatives for removal of radon from drinking water. Storage, blending, and loss in the water distribution system would be limited to situations where only low removal would be required.


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