Sometimes, water heaters do more than the obvious. While they heat water, they also collect a little uranium, creating deposits of radioactive scale inside their tanks. That's what South Carolina researchers have discovered in a community with the dubious distinction of having water that's naturally laced with among the highest concentrations of uranium ever reported in groundwater: 10,000 micrograms per liter.
Uranium concentrations in 50 residential wells near Simpsonville exceed federal drinking water standards by a factor of 300, Van Price of the University of South Carolina in Columbia and his colleagues reported in Denver at a meeting of the Geological Society of America last November.
In homes receiving some of the most contaminated water, uranium concentrations fell by about 23 percent as water passed through heaters, Timothy A. DeVol and Richard L. Woodruff Jr. of Clemson University now find.