Commission looks to reduce radon levels via EPA grant

8 years ago

Commission looks to reduce radon levels
via EPA grant

Aroostook County has high levels of the radioactive element

CARIBOU, Maine Upon hearing a presentation from NMDC Senior Planner Jay Kamm during the Jan. 14, 2016 board meeting, the development commission agreed to submit an EPA Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Program grant application in the amount of $120,000, which will focus on reducing the health impact of radon in Aroostook County.

Radon is a radioactive gas that lacks color and odor, but can potentially cause lung cancer. The EPA estimates that radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in those who don’t smoke, making it a considerable threat.
Kamm described the work that he had done with Planning and Development Division Director Alain Ouellette and Community Development Specialist Joella Theriault.
“We are competing with other states in the New England region,” said Kamm. “We have to have three partners in the program. They can not be part of the same organization, and they need signed letters of commitment. Alain, Joella, and I met with some organizations and it seemed as though we had some good support from them.”
The EPA application needs to address one of the federal environmental statutes, and since Aroostook County has excessive radon levels, Kamm, Ouellette and Theriault are looking at the Clean Air Act
“Aroostook County has radon concentrations far above what EPA would have us all be concerned about,” explained Kamm. “A ‘zone one’ area or community would have four picocuries per liter (pCi/L) so anything higher than that is where EPA really wants to spend their funding. All of Aroostook County is a zone one area and we have an average of 5.8 pCi/L. We’re well above the rest of the state. We’re in an area of concern at the EPA and DHHS level.”
Picocuries are a unit of measurement named after French scientists Marie and Pierre Curie. One curie is equivalent to the radiation of a single gram of radium, and one picocurie represents one trillionth of a curie. Since radium decays at about 2.2 trillion disintegrations per minute, Aroostook County’s 5.8 pCi/L average translates to a decaying rate of roughly 12.76 disintegrations per minute.
“We have the high levels of radon that occur in the ground and then move up through the groundwater and into the air. Houses often trap radon inside for a long time. Old houses with dirt cellars allow radon to easily enter. We also have a long heating season, where the house is closed (to the open air) for a fairly long portion of the year, and traps radon inside.
“Many homeowners don’t realize they have a problem. As an example, we learned at the meeting last week, that ACAP tested 90 homes they were weatherizing, and 26 of those homes had levels over four. So it’s a cause for concern,” he added.
Kamm said his office should know in August if they are selected for funding. “As with most federal programs the start date will be October 1st, and this is a two-year program.”