Sunday, 2 December 2012

Nuclear pollution of ground water:Water in Chittoor villages polluted with high concentrations of uranium

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: After Nalgonda, it is now Chittoor. Drinking and
ground water in the high profile Chittoor district is polluted with
high concentrations of uranium, 135 times more than the permissible
limits fixed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Research studies in Vagalla and nearby villages in Chittoor district
revealed that drinking and well waters contain as much as 2700
nanograms per millitre, as against the permissible limit of 20 ng/mL.
The Geological Survey of India, Hyderabad and Kolkata units, collected
water samples from Vagalla and surrounding villages after it was found
that the area is a potential source for uranium search. Moreover, some
of the villagers had health problems.

Analysis of the water samples revealed the presence of a number of
contaminants in quantities far exceeding the permissible limits.
Besides uranium, the researchers found high concentrations of nitrate
up to 1810 micrograms per millitre (permissible limit is 45 micrograms
per ml), fluoride up to 3 micrograms per ml (permissible limit 1.5
microgram per ml), strontium 1409 nanograms per millitre (limit 1000
ng/ml) and manganese 1211 ng/mL (limit 300 ng/mL).

Chittoor is the second district in Andhra Pradesh after Nalgonda where
drinking and underground water is contaminated by radioactive uranium.
Earlier studies have shown that water drawn from Nalgonda district
(Nagarjunasagar dam) to Hyderabad is also contaminated with
radioactive uranium.

The city-based Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) too conducted surveys
at Lakkireddipalle near Vagalla village to find out if there were any
uranium resources. The presence of high concentrations of uranium in
drinking water reveals that the area is sitting on uranium resources,
as is the case with Nalgonda.

Eminent neurologist Dr D Raja Reddy of Apollo Hospitals, who was part
of the GSI study team, told this correspondent that they had found
about a dozen elements including uranium in drinking and well waters
in Vagalla and nearby areas. “The GSI took up the research to find out
if extraction of uranium was economically viable,” he said adding that
high concentration of uranium in drinking water could lead to
congenital health issues.

The other members of the study team were GSI scientists Chebrolu Rama
Mohan Rao, Gudumotu Vijaya Babu and Chennuri Durga Rao. Their findings
were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Applied
Geochemistry.

The AMD in its survey found minerals like syenite and pegmatite, which
contain high amount of rare earth elements and trace element
concentrations. Commenting on the AMD’s study, the GSI team pointed
out that the high anomaly in many elements offers scope for detailed
geochemical sampling for both economic and societal points of view as
“there is some health problems associated with the inhabitants”.

Some villages of Chittoor district form part of Dharwar Craton under
Cuddapah Basin famous for granitic rocks with minerals like
megmatites, amphibolite and metapelites trapped in them.

“Systematic sampling of bore and open well water samples have been
carried out to find out the source of high concentrations of uranium
in about 99 water samples collected in and around Vagalla,” the GSI
team said in their research publication.

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