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Army says water at Netzaberg will be treated, safe

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Drinking water at the Army’s new Netzaberg housing area will be safe, even though it will come from wells contaminated with radioactive elements, Army officials said this week.

Former Eschenbach town councilor Franz Praun raised concerns over the safety of the drinking water recently, sending letters to the city of Eschenbach, local news outlets and environmental groups. In his letter, Praun wrote that Eschenbach city documents show radon, radium-226 and radium-228 in water from two wells that will be used to supply Netzaberg — an 830-home U.S. military housing area under construction near Grafenwöhr.

“Responsible authorities must to be asked, whether it is OK to supply the residents here, American soldiers and their families, with radioactively loaded water,” he wrote.

Praun, who also is concerned that the water might be sent to German homes, wrote that the wells exceed European Union health guidelines.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, long-term exposure to radium increases the risk of developing diseases such as lymphoma, bone cancer, leukemia and aplastic anemia.

U.S. officials confirmed Monday that radioactive particles are present in the well water but said a treatment plant — under construction as part of the Netzaberg project — will remove them before the water is supplied to residents.

Thomas Hays, the U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr director of public works, said officials knew about the radioactivity in the water before Praun raised the issue.

“The expressed concern is about water coming from a future well,” Hays said. “There is already a plan in place to treat that water before it is put into the public system. We don’t see any future threat to any occupants out there at all.”

Other towns in Bavaria’s Oberpfalz region also deal with the problem, which is common in areas with the sort of sandstone geology found around Grafenwöhr, he said.

The first Netzaberg residents, who arrived at the start of the month, are supplied with the same water used by Eschenbach city. That water comes from a different aquifer than the one tapped by the two new wells, Hays said.

From late October or early November, the new wells will come on line, but the water will be treated to remove the radioactive particles, Hays said.

“There will be sampling (of water at Netzaberg) by the U.S. Army Center for Health Protection and Preventive Medicine,” he said.


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