Radioactive Water Filter

Radioactive Water Filter

Radioactive Water Filter

Guest article by Bogan

Spurred by a comment on this blog, I started to research how a person might go about filtering water that has been contaminated by radioactivity.

Knowing little to nothing about the topic a person ought to be able to find out something by rummaging through the internet, right?

As I began my search, I noted that more than one seemingly well credentialed commentator suggests that it is impossible to remove all radioactive contaminants from water. This is apparently because they comprise atomic size particles (which by implication can pass through filters).

However a person can reduce the amount of radioactive water in the water source by scaling up the water source (lake vs pond, river v stream, etc.) But to do nothing seems like folly to me.


Natural ‘Earth’ Water Filter

That said earthen filters for radioactive water is a topic that has already been addressed in Modern Survival Blog:

Earthen Water Filter For Radioactive Water

Another resource is a Google eBook. Here’s a link to the relevant chapter of one such book.

The approach in both these articles is to use the filtration qualities of naturally occurring substances like dirt, clay, and rocks. All very sound.

The problem is, you probably wont’ have all the right materials stockpiled in quantity in advance. During the period immediately following a nuclear event (however caused) what if you can’t go outside to prospect for, and mine, the right type of clay? Or to dig the right kind of hole in the ground to access to suitably filtered water?


Modern Technology Filtration For Radioactive Water

There have been updates to water filtration technology over the years. One wonders if there are technology solutions for the problem of radioactive water that do not require extensive education or experience in the soils field.

One recent MSB commentator suggested a 3-4 stage water distillation setup. (The distillation equipment is dual use not only for nice and pure water, but other popular liquids as well. Hmmmm!!!!)

[Ken adds: ] Heavy metals such as Cesium-137 have a very high boiling point temperature 1,240°F for Cesium). Therefore a thermo Water Distiller will leave these heavy metals behind in the source pot. The distiller boils water into steam (212°F). This results in “pure” water transferred cleanly to the receiving container. I have one of these. They are fairly expensive, uses lots of electricity to operate (typically takes about 6 hours of boiling to steam out one gallon), but it works. Distilled water is also important for lead acid batteries and other things…


Radiological Water Filter


Other options for filtering radioactive water include Seychelle products specific Radiological Water Filters.

From their site:
The Radiological filter removes the four basic zones of contamination: aesthetic (chlorine, taste and odor), chemicals (from industry and agriculture), dissolved solids (heavy metals such as lead, mercury, chromium 6) and up to 99.99% of radiological contaminants such as gross beta, radon 222, alpha radium 226, plutonium, uranium, cesium 134 and 137. Removes up to 90% of fluoride.

Seychelle Extreme Water Filter Bottle

Radiation Water Filtration Straw


Reverse Osmosis

Similarly, one wonders if a feasible way to filter water might involve a series of three or more commercially available “whole house filters”, with progressively tighter micron filter densities.

[Ken adds: ] From the Environmental Protection Agency:

Reverse osmosis has been identified by EPA as a best available technology for uranium, radium, gross alpha, and beta particles and photon emitters. It can remove up to 99 percent of these radionuclides, as well as many other contaminants (e.g., arsenic, nitrate, and microbial contaminants). Reverse osmosis units can be automated and compact making them appropriate for small systems.


How does Reverse osmosis work? By forcing water through very tiny filter membrane pores – as tiny as .0001 microns, depending on filter media. Therefore “almost” nothing except water gets through.

Note: Reverse osmosis alone (as a radioactive water filter) isn’t quite enough. Why? Because the process doesn’t remove “gaseous contaminants”.

A nuclear plant “major malfunction” may release Iodine-131 as a gas into the atmosphere. It may fall to the earth when it rains and will get into the surface water supply.

Activated Carbon

Activated carbon may be used within the radioactive water filter system to help remove such compounds (Iodine-131) up until the point of carbon saturation.

FYI, the following is presently the most popular and well reviewed reverse osmosis system on AMZN (includes a carbon stage),

iSpring 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System


More: HEPA Air Filter For Alpha Particle Radiation

More: 5 Radiation Detector Choices

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  1. Ken,
    Great article to get the subject going. but let’s first look at, and define what we are trying to filter out. “Radionuclides” and “fallout contaminated water” needs some defining. There are a whole host of radioactive elements that might need to be filtered depending on the situation. Fallout is one thing, nuke plant leak another, and downstream of a uranium mine another. As you have pointed out, a lot of the existing filtering systems say they filter out certain radioactive ‘daughters’. I personally do not think any of the mentioned filtering systems will be 100% by themselves. I am thinking it is going to take a combination of the different systems. Take for instance, RO. Most of the under-sink RO systems are not just RO membranes, they also incorporate spun poly cartridge and activated carbon block filters prior to the RO part, then have a final activated carbon ‘polishing filter on the faucet side. No way of knowing if it will get ‘all radionuclides’, but I think there is a good chance it will removed a vast majority between the RO and Carbon filter technologies. An additional concern that needs to be addressed when analyzing any of these technologies is “how do you know when the filtering system is clogged or in need of replenishment?” (also disposal of filtering media that has become “Hot” from the filtered out radioactive elements). We have a lot of good folks here that I think can answer at least some of these questions. Maybe also address the technologies available for ‘expedient filtering needs’ and ‘longer term permanent survival needs’ . Sorry for the long post, clean water has been a big issue in my life. Can ya tell?

  2. Another possibility would be atmospheric condensation after the initial blast has settled. There are machines that can take water from the air, and I understand that efficiency has increased enormously in the last few years. Most do take electricity, but in some areas a passive process is used to gather dew and water crops.

    1. Lauren,
      I believe there would be a lot of radioactive elements in the air even weeks after a blast. Many of these are water soluble. In fact, Tritium, ( H3) bonds with oxygen to form a radioactive form of water. Fallout will also be being blown around by the wind and resuspending in the atmosphere along with radioactive ‘decay daughters’ . Atmospheric water condensation systems are great for areas that have no surface or ground water resources, but would be subject to contamination well after a nuclear blast. just my thoughts.

  3. If my well water becomes contaminated with radiation not filtered out after traveling miles in earth and gravel from the mountains, my food production and health would already be in jeopardy. Kind of like “beating a dead horse”.

    1. Hermit Us,
      Chances are if your well is pulling from a deep tight aquifer, you will be getting clean water. Another good reason to make sure that your well casing has been sealed so it does not get infiltration from the surface.

      1. minerjim
        Yup, well sealed and using a pitless well adapter down 6′. Also not in a place where any surface drainage can collect.

        1. Hermit Us,
          I figured you’d already have been on top of that. Though you’d be surprised how many wells I have looked at professionally where the owner had the well sticking out of the ground in the middle of a horse paddock, and then wondered why his kids were getting sick from the water. sheesh!

      2. The water in an aquifer takes decades or more (hundreds of years) to go from the surface to depth. If someone is pulling their drinking water from a very shallow depth of a few feet to a few tens of feet, then yes a high contamination is entirely possible. In my area, a lot of wells were initially only a few tens of feet (20 to 40 feet) but have had to go deeper (80 feet) or more due to nitrates in which fertilizers were over applied decades ago. Those practices have greatly improved over the years through greater analysis if soil types and vegetation requirements. Think about it, if your crops only need half the anhydrous ammonia to get the same benefit, why not use less. That is after all a cost savings.

    2. HERMIT ,,,,,,,did some work in your neck of the woods ,all of the deep water had radon in it ,,,,,as long as it’s under pressure radon gas will stay in suspension ,,,but will off gas as you run the tap ,or heat it ,enjoy the hot shower,,,,,i have tested a good?(high) Count in a bathrooms air after a shower ,,radon will lodge in your lungs in the alveoli ,,,,,,moral to the story ,,take your shower outside ,,, ,,,,I have more ,,,from testing in north Idaho,and NE Washington .and NW Montana ,, but do you really want to know??? Did testing to understand backround counts,,, and find deposits that glow,,,,,,,, found a bunch of things,,,,,, enough for now,,,,,,,
      Tea time.

      1. 0ldhomesteader
        I could be wrong, but I thought radon was most common in clay soils. During my construction years, I always worried about those excavations when initially dug.
        My wells are in clean gravel with just a hint of iron – not enough to stain the tub or toilet. But that is not saying that radon could not have been introduced further upstream.
        And yes, I do shower in part of a well ventilated greenhouse/mud room but them little radons are tough to avoid.

        1. I have not checked if there is any correlation between our radon levels and any increase in lung cancer around here.

          1. “Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.” from the EPA website. A lot of uranium miners died of lung cancer over the years that was attributed to radon, the good majority that died were smokers. Why? the radon gas, when inhaled tended to chemically attach itself to carbon particles attached in the lungs left over from smoking. Once the radon got locked into the lungs, it kept emitting radiation to the surrounding lung tissue and caused cancer. (BTW when you smoke a pack of cigarettes you inhale minute amounts of radioactive Polonium in the tobacco, and it does the same thing supposedly.)
            I personally would be worried more about other types of radioactive elements in water, like Cesium-137 and Strontium-90. These are stronger emitters and can do more damage. Radon can be released from water while showering as someone said. A simple treatment system for radon can be a tank with a spray system and an active vent for the radon. Does not remove all, but tends to reduce the amount. In the field you could pour the water back and forth between buckets and basically do the same thing to remove radon, for what it is worth.

        2. HERMIT ,,,,radon can be ground in hard rock or clay ,clay started out as rock ,,,,,,granite has a high level but trapped and slowly released ,,clay formed from rock is highly porous and has faster release rate ,,,,,,are you on a old glacer moraine of clay and gravel ?MINERJIM will know much more ,,, I’m a things that glow guy ,,, MJ has better handle and backround than I do ,,,that whole region is a young uplift ,and has higher rad counts a source of some isotopes ,,,,,,,,,,,,
          Learn to love the glow ,,,,,I do ,,,,,,,we need to do some good steaks some time ,,,,,,you like thin cut ? Or thick?

          1. Old Homesteader,
            “Learn to love the glow….” . Well, I am sure you have at least heard of the ‘hormesis effect’ of radiation – small amounts of ionizing radiation are actually good for you. Sort of the ‘Little dab will do ya’ of the nuke world. LOL

  4. I have training and some of the best equipment. Have yet to find water that dose not have a count ,,,,even store bought bottles ,,very small yes ,,,but still there ,,,,just part of life,,,

    1. Old Homesteader,
      Yup. In fact that is how they ‘age’ ground water, or tell its age. They look at the levels of naturally occurring tritium and compare it to surface water.

  5. So if they could get radiation out of water, why haven’t they stopped the ocean from being contaminated from Fukushima?

    On a lighter note, DHS recommends being prepared with at least 6 months of food. Israel builds up military near Lebanon, Ukraine builds up near Russia, China builds up in the China sea and Syria has shelling going on against American backed Kurds by Turkey. Yep, radioactive water is coming.

    1. Defcon,
      Fukushima. There is a whole lot of water to be decontaminated, more than a cubic buttload. Filtering takes a lot of time, lots of filter media, etc. They seem to be just overwhelmed. I think their present process is to hold the highly contaminated water as long as they can, to try and let the short-lived highly radioactive elements decay down to somewhat stable isotopes before treatment and then releasing it in small amounts so that the sea water will dilute it down to ‘acceptable’ levels. Not an optimal process by any means, but better than just letting it bleed into the ocean untouched. Sad state of affairs to be sure.

    2. DEFCON ,,,,,,,i have people in know ,,, ,that are keeping track of fuku ,tell me it’s a unhappy thing BUT not the end of the world ,,,,as I understand most of the isotopes are heavy and settle fast , the sea bed will absorb and trap in the deep mud ,,thousand of feet down ,, the greater tragedy is the loss from the wave ,,,you are over reacting,,,,,,,. The sky is not falling ,,,,,,,,

        1. I don’t know, I’m starting t catch 3 eyed crabs and hoping for further mutation into ones with 4 claws. I’m kidding of course.

        1. Fear is one thing, living in a radioactive dust bowl with little food and contaminated water not good.

  6. I’ve had Sechelle radiation water bottles for 3 years or better.They filter just about everything, but I always wonder how to keep the outside and the whole ystem pure while using it, including my hands and me!

    1. Good point, i honestly never even thought of that beyond using it to use as a final filter for ore filtered water,

  7. All we have are the seychelle filter bottles,
    Theoretically the water i have stored in the basement shouldnt get contaminated, that said, i base that theory on the fact that we are pretty far from any first strike spots, i doubt we would be it, and prevailing winds at the several different elevations would take contaminants away from our location, but there is always a chance eh, that murphies law,,,

  8. OK,,,,will try to stay on topic,,,,,,went and just looked at info I have from days of yore ,,, a get by filter can be made using a 55gal open top drum filled with sand ,,water slowly allowed to filter through ,, a three foot column of sand per my old training manual ,,,must be so US GOVERNMENT printing office put it out ,now if we can just find clean sand ,,,

  9. Couldn’t we just filter it through granulated lead? Actually I shudder to think of all of the split shot sinkers I closed with my teeth as a kid.

    1. Or all the little lead pellets ive eaten over the decades of eating ducks, geese, pheasants and such from the hunt

  10. Ill just go back to what they taught me in boot camp in the event of NBC warfare. Filter what you can, but in the end just put your head between yoiur legs and kiss your a$$ goodbye.

  11. I think the key thing to put your minds at ease, is your water source. From what I’ve read about the subject over the years, radioactivity does not bind with water it only binds with the particles in it. So get yourself a 55 gallon or larger container and fill it with the cleanest water you can find. Then seal it and let it sit a few days or more so gravity can pull all the particles down to earth. Then when you feel enough time has passed, as gently as possible without disturbing the water, siphon out the top half of your collected water. From there you can go ahead and purify the water the way you normally do. Obviously the longer you can let the water rest undisturbed the better but most sources I’ve read say that 3-7 days is adequate.

    Then of course, you have to find someplace to dispose of the contaminated half of your water source and rinse out your container.

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