[ RadSafe ] Re: Underground water in Varanasi the U guideline followed in India is 60 microgramme per litre

parthasarathy k s ksparth at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Jul 18 01:25:45 CDT 2008

Dear Dan,

I am sorry I missed your message. I get too many messages as I  am a freelance science writer contributing regularly to the science & technology columns of a few newspapers and news agencies. Generally I do not miss RADSAFE messages; responding to them is my first priority.

In India, we follow a  guideline of 60microgramme per liter for uranium in drinking water. There is a possibility that we may also accept the USEPA guideline of 30 microgramme per litre. I understand that up to 2006, some EU countries have not  prescribed a limit for uranium in drinking water . They may use the WHO guideline of 15 microgramme per litre

The news story you referred to has  a bit of a drama and comedy about it! It is a typical case of a report getting top billing as the reporter has "spiced" it with radioactivity.

It was based on some work carried out by two professors of the Banaras Hindu University over 18 years ago. A reporter interviewed one of the authors who retired from the University.Among the work hecarried out was also measurements of uranium and heavy elements in tubewell water samples carried out in 1990  with one of his colleagues (who died a few years ago). They have published it in the  Indian Journal of Hydrology.
The reporter asked the member secretary of the State PollutionControl Board. He said he was not aware of the report. It was not surprising as the report appeared in an obscure journal. The reporter got excited! rest is history. 

Since I do not know the origin of 2ppb as the limit, I spoke to the professor; he claimed that he got the value from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). You may recall that in the absence of  enough scientific evidence ,WHO gave a value of 2 microgramme per litre as the guideline in 1998. In fact the shifting stance of WHO over the years was creating some problems.

I understand that uranium content in water is a live issue in USA and countries such as Finland. Any useful inputs from RADSAFE members from various countries may be useful to me. I was a member of an expert group set up by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board in 2004. We recommended 60 microgramme per litre. This limit is likely to be revised.

I have issued a press release in response to the news story on uranium in well water samples in Varnasi ( Banaras in English). I did it because the item appeared in some leading news papers. I have assured the readers that the levels are neither alarming nor abnormal. I gave the typical values from a number of publications. Data are available from 1976!
I shall send the text of the press release, if any "RADSAFER" is interested.
"Uranium" is now an important component of news in India for various reasons.


----- Original Message ----
From: Dan W McCarn <hotgreenchile at gmail.com>
To: radsafelist <radsafe at radlab.nl>
Cc: parthasarathy k s <ksparth at yahoo.co.uk>
Sent: Monday, 14 July, 2008 12:04:18 AM
Subject: Underground water in Varanasi 

Dan W. McCarn, Geologist; 3118 Pebble Lake Drive; Sugar Land, TX 77479; USA 
HotGreenChile at gmail.com  mccarn at unileoben.ac.at  UConcentrate at gmail.com

Hi - Perhaps Parthasarathy can comment on this: Is the maximum contaminant
level (MCL) for uranium really only 1.5 ug/L in India?  If so, this is
certainly not in line with EU or US EPA values.

Dan ii


The Hindu
Sunday, July 13, 2008 : 1600 Hrs 
'Underground water in Varanasi contaminated with Uranium'

Varanasi (PTI): In an alarming development, a group of scientists has
revealed that underground water in Varanasi and adjoining areas is
contaminated with Uranium but the Centre and the state government are
unaware of the fact.

The study conducted by G C Chowdhary, former Professor at the Geology
Department of Banaras Hindu University and S K Agarwal, also a professor of
Geology, has shown that the drinking water in the University premises some
other places in the city contains radioactive Uranium more than the
recommended limit. 

Samples for the study were collected from 11 tubewells tapping deep aquifers
(more than 100 meters deep). 

The Uranium content varied from 2 to 11 ppb (parts per billion) while the
permissible limit is only 1.5 ppb. 

Chowdhary said the underground water also contains heavy metals such as
Chromium, Manganese, Nickel, Ferrous, Copper, Zinc and Lead. 

He said they had also published their first research paper in this regard in
the Hydrology Journal of Indian Association of Hydrology in 1990s, clearly
predicting health hazardous of water contaminated with these elements beyond
the permissible limit. 

Member Secretary of the UP Pollution Control Board, CS Bhatt, told PTI on
phone that he had not come across any report, which suggests that the
underground water in Varanasi is contaminated with any sort of radioactive

There is no facility with the board to investigate any such occurrences even
if it comes to its knowledge, he said. 

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