In Austria, a statutory upper limit for uranium in drinking water has been in effect for almost ten years. There is no reason to panic, but some regions in Salzburg include a risk area. Because if this heavy metal occurs in the surrounding rocks, traces of it can also get into drinking water.
Uranium can dissolve in the groundwater and get into the drinking water – geologists from the University of Salzburg take water samples to determine uranium residues. That happens routinely, positively to Gerhard Schubert from the Federal Geological Institute in Vienna. “Private suppliers don’t have to do that and people often don’t know that they have elevated values.”
Search for uranium in groundwater
In Austria there is a legally defined upper limit for uranium in drinking water. The heavy metal can get into the water from the surrounding rock. Salzburg is considered a risk area. Geologists have begun examining samples across the country.
Increased values especially in the south of Salzburg
The limit is 15 millionths of a gram of uranium per liter of water. At these low concentrations, it is not radioactivity that is dangerous, but uranium as a heavy metal that damages the kidneys. The rock samples from Salzburg are examined under an electron microscope at the Federal Geological Institute in Vienna. With elaborate analysis methods, uranium can be detected in these tiny concentrations in the spring water.
The first results showed that, “especially in the south of Salzburg, in the Hohe Tauern in the area of the central gneisses, increased values occur – namely in the area of Bad Gastein (Pongau) and then between the Zillertal and the Granatspitz. Elevated values could also occur in the Radstädter Tauern area, ”including Schubert.
In the past even mining in the tunnel
After all, the uranium content of the Niedere Tauern was high enough to even allow the first tunnel to be excavated in the 1970s. “Uranium is ubiquitous in nature and is present in the smallest quantities in most rocks,” says similar mineralogist Friedrich Finger from the University of Salzburg. In Forstau (Pongau) people even tried to mine it. Only a plaque commemorating an injured miner still reminds of this uranium ore mining in Salzburg.
There is no reason to panic, but private wells or sources in risk areas should be checked. You can contact the Federal Geological Institute in Vienna.