Achieving Compliance with the Radium Standards for Drinking Water in a Midwestern Community: A Case Study

Oleckno, William A.; Nathan, Lisa M.; Anderson, Brian R.
April 2001
Journal of Environmental Health;Apr2001, Vol. 63 Issue 8, p9
Academic Journal
Case Study
Abstract The problem of elevated levels of radium in the drinking-water supply of DeKalb, Illinois, a Midwestern community about 65 miles west of Chicago with approximately 35,000 residents, has been a contentious issue for over a decade. The central players in the controversy include a group of concerned citizens, city officials, the Illinois Pollution Control Board, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). Achieving a satisfactory resolution to the problem has been a long, drawn-out process that illustrates how ill-timed proposals, changing risk assessments, different perceptions of risk, and the high costs of compliance can influence the direction of risk management decisions. The purpose of this study is to analyze how these factors sustained the debate and prevented an expeditious solution to the problem. The study uses document analysis as its primary research tool. The questions raised by the controversy, along with their implications for environmental policy, are discussed, as are some of the more important lessons learned from the case. Because of many uncertainties, there were no dear winners in the controversy, although, in the context of the most recent U.S. EPA risk assessments, the community is now poised for better protection from the potential dangers of radium in drinking water than it might have been had citizen action been absent.


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