Article courtesy of Yudhvir Rana | January 11, 2015 | The Times of India | Shared as educational material
AMRITSAR: Detection of high uranium content in drinking water in Amritsar district has set the alarm bells with the medical fraternity now demanding further research to know the root cause of the heavy metal seeping into groundwater.
Associate professor in department of physics of Guru Nanak Dev University, Jaspal Singh, told TOI on Saturday that in a recent study conducted by the department only 55 out of 142 water samples from Amritsar district were found to have uranium content within safe limits. “As many as 87 samples had more uranium than is considered safe. 19 samples had high uranium content of more than 60 microgram per liter while 58 samples had uranium content of more than 30 microgram per litre,” he said.
While according to Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) of India and Environmental Protection Agency the permissible limit of uranium content was 30 and 60 microgram per litre, the World Health Organization (WHO) had revised its limit from 15 microgram to 30 microgram per litre.
“We had collected water samples of Amritsar municipal corporation supplied water, submersible pumps and from tubewells and surprisingly majority of samples had high uranium content,” he said. He said they had found that deep tubewells in the city of Amritsar and the villages had low uranium contents as compared to the upper level groundwater tubewells.
Jaspal said that more research work was being carried out to find the root cause of problem. “It could be due to either some human activity like use of fertilizer, but it is not confirmed as yet or some geochemistry of underground water was being studied,” he said.
Expressing surprise over finding of uranium in ‘potable’ water, medical practitioner Dr H S Nagpal said, “It is carcinogenic and one of the root cause of cancer. The findings are startling.” Stressing the need to carry out more research to find out the cause of uranium in holy city’s water, he said that since same water was used for irrigation, foodgrains and vegetables could also have uranium content.
“In a study of Sri Mukatsar Sahib, 72 samples out of 114 had having high uranium content according the AERB and 89 samples according to WHO and EPA (USA). “The maximum value, so far, that we had observed in this district was about 55 microgram per litre,” Jaspal said.
Earlier, the department had reported high uranium contents in groundwater collected from Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot and Ferozpur districts.