Some towns have been able to avoid worrying about what to do with radioactive radium after removing it from the drinking water supplies.
Prospect Heights is spending about $1.3 million to switch from well water to Lake Michigan water, which is nearly radium-free.
Other towns whose water supply comes from wells changed their methods of disposal to avoid the possibly hazardous practice of spreading radium-enriched sludge on farm fields.
Last week, Elburn officials approved a plan to spend roughly $2 million on a process by Colorado-based Water Remediation Technology that won’t just remove the radium from the water; it’ll get it out of the state.
Instead of flushing the sludge down the sewers, the company’s process traps the radium in containers, and the company will be responsible for replacing those containers and getting the waste to a licensed disposal site.
Bartlett officials also have had talks with the company.
Elburn officials say two competing methods – ion exchange and water softening – would have cost $4.6 million and $9 million – and left them with radioactive sludge.
“This is the silver bullet of radium removal” village administrator David Morrison says. “It’s better and cheaper.”
He says he’s not sure why Elburn officials appear to be more up to spread on regulations than many other communities, but he said common sense told him that generating radioactive sludge and spreading it on farms wasn’t prudent.
“Our fear was the EPA would begin to say, ‘You’re just moving all this radium around and not actually getting rid of it,'” he says. “Somebody was going to figure it out sooner or later.”