Irrigating with groundwater may be releasing radon into air

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P.E.I. groundwater contains radon as a dissolved gas. Have the deep-water wells in Prince and Queens County received a radiological assessment?

I believe there are meteorological and health consequences to their operation. Specifically, what are the activities of radon, 86Rn222, in these wells? How does it compare with shallow water wells? What is the airborne maximum permissible concentration (MPC) of radon on P.E.I.?

If you irrigate with P.E.I. groundwater by spraying, in the flight of the water droplets through the air, radon will evaporate out of the water droplet, effectively what is called an air stripper; now a radon stripper. Some radon evaporates (stripped out), some doesn't. The radon stripper effect will form a radioactive radon gas cloud, a radon plumb. The radioactive half-life of 86Rn222 is 3.8 days, and a significant concentration of radon may occur near the spraying source in light winds as well as down wind.

When radon decays it emits an alpha particle of 5.5 million electron volts, very energetic. Electrons are stripped off diatomic oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the air and it takes about 30 electron volts to create one ion pair.

This is referred to as ionization or ionizing radiation. Do the math: divide 5.5 million by 30 and you get 183,000 ion pairs from one alpha particle.

There is a background level of ionization in the atmosphere caused by cosmic rays and background radiation. Airborne irrigation will add to this considerably; so much so that the resistance of the earth's atmosphere is decreased, the electrical field of the earth arcs over, and you have thunder and lightning.

Last summer I heard thunder over Hunter River or Cavendish and there wasn't talk of any electrical disturbances on the newscast nor were the clouds thunderheads. I believe now this thunder most likely was caused by the deep-water wells spraying radon in the air in Prince and Queens County of P.E.I. Friends say: “I heard that too.”

Health Canada should also look into the health consequences of the deep-water wells. As a public health matter, it will also prove useful to know the MPC of radon for groundwater, as municipal wells are also involved, at least indirectly.


Tony Lloyd

Mount Stewart, P.E.I.


Organizations: MPC, Health Canada

Geographic location: Hunter River, Prince, Queens Mount Stewart

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