The Beaver Basin area has one of the highest levels of radon-gas hazard potential in the state, according to a new report by the Utah Geological Survey.
The Basin was identified by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality as a potential hot spot after tests showed the highest recorded levels of indoor radon in the state, said Charles Bishop, UGS geologist and author of the report."Levels in the area are well above those considered a health risk by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," he said.
Radon gas is a radioactive byproduct of decaying uranium or thorium in the soil of the Basin area. It is a naturally occurring, colorless, odorless, tasteless, water-soluble element that moves easily into the air or water. Sufficiently high levels have been linked to lung cancer.
Bishop said that since the mid- to late 1960s the U.S. Geological Survey had been studying radon levels in that area after "high incidents of lung cancer in uranium miners" were reported to the EPA.
No illness in the Beaver area has been reported to the EPA or any other agency, Bishop said.
"This is something people should be aware of," Bishop said. "If people spend a fair amount of time in their basement - if they have bedrooms, living rooms or family rooms down there - they probably should test to see what the levels are."
Testing is needed because radon can migrate through the ground in cracks or pipe entryways in buildings, which makes a basement of a home an easy target, Bishop said.
Fairly inexpensive, easy-to-use radon sampling kits can be purchased at most hardware stores, Bishop said. The kits are placed in an area of the home where families spent a good amount of time. Over the course of three months, the kits take air samples to test for the radioactive gas. The kit can then be sent to a lab, which is listed on the kit, and can be analyzed for radon hazards.
The Beaver Basin encompasses nearly 160 square miles in eastern Beaver County. A natural depression in the basin floor, called basin fill, is made up of sediments from volcanic rocks and other rocks that have a high uranium content.
This basin fill deposit is characterized by moderate to high soil permeability. Ground water depth is greater than 10 feet in most of the region, and the area is enclosed by mountains that also have high uranium levels.
This latest report was sparked by a 1988 statewide indoor radon survey by DEQ's Division of Radiation Control. The division sampled one building in Beaver that had a high indoor radon concentration value, Bishop said.
Since that time, the UGS has studied nine areas of the state - ranging from Logan to St. George - that the DEQ identified as problematic. Those reports, including the Uinta Basin report, are available in the Department of Natural Resources Map & Bookstore, 1594 W. North Temple.