Watch Out for a Possible Increase in Radioactivity in Your Drinking Water by Mark Karlin, June 16, 2016, Buzzflash at Truthout
The advocacy organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has reacted with alarm to the new plan put forth by a government agency that is supposed to be protecting us from toxic substances. The EPA claims it is only being proactive, allowing for potential changed circumstances in the future….
EPA Proposal Allows Radiation Exposure in Drinking Water Equivalent to 250 Chest X-Rays a Year by Food & Water Watch, June 8, 2016, Ecowatch
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quietly issued proposals Monday to allow radioactive contamination in drinking water at concentrations vastly greater than allowed under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The new guidance would permit radiation exposures equivalent to 250 chest X-rays a year. Environmental groups are calling the proposal “shocking” and “egregious.”
The EPA proposed Protective Action Guides (PAGs) would allow the general population to drink water hundreds to thousands of times more radioactive than is now legal. For example, radioactive iodine-131 has a current limit of 3 pico-curies per liter (pCi/L), in water but the new guidance would allow 10,350 (pCi/L), 3,450 times higher. For strontium-90, which causes leukemia, the current limit is 8 pCi/L; the new proposed value is 7,400 pCi/L, a 925-fold increase.
“Clean water is essential for health,” Dr. Catherine Thomasson, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said. “Just like lead, radiation when ingested in small amounts is very hazardous to our health. It is inconceivable that EPA could now quietly propose allowing enormous increases in radioactive contamination with no action to protect the public, even if concentrations are a thousand times higher than under the Safe Drinking Water Act.”
The Bush Administration in its last days unsuccessfully tried to put forward similar proposals, which the incoming Obama Administration pulled back. Now, in the waning months of the Obama Administration, the EPA’s radiation office is trying again.
“These levels are even higher than those proposed by the Bush Administration—really unprecedented and shocking,” Diane D’Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said.
All radionuclides can cause cancer and other health and reproductive problems; there is no completely safe level. Strontium causes bone cancer and leukemia. Babies, children and females are at even greater risk than adult males.
PAGs apply not just to emergencies such as “dirty bombs” and Fukushima-type nuclear power meltdowns but also to any radiological release for which a protective action may be considered—even a radiopharmaceutical transport spill [or Frac waste spill or intentional dumping into a municipal water supply]. The proposed drinking water PAG would apply not to the immediate phase after a release, but rather to the intermediate phase, after the release has been stabilized and lasting up to several years thereafter.
Radiation doses (in rems) cannot be measured but are calculated based on some measurements and many assumptions. The current Safe Drinking Water Act limits are based on 4 millirems per year. The PAGs would allow 500 millirems per year for the general population. A single chest X-ray gives about 2 millirems. Because of the way EPA is changing the definition of dose, for many radionuclides, the allowable concentration would be thousands, tens of thousands and even millions of times higher than set under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Internal EPA documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the EPA itself concluded that the proposed concentrations “would exceed MCLs [Maximum Contaminant Limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act] by a factor of 100, 1000 and in two instances, 7 million.” The EPA internal analysis showed that for one radionuclide, “drinking a very small glass of water of approximately 4 ounces … would result in an exposure that corresponds to a lifetime of drinking … water … at the MCL level.”
“All of this is extraordinary, since EPA has recently accepted the National Academy of Sciences’ most current risk estimates for radiation, indicating radiation is considerably more dangerous per unit dose than previously believed,”
D’Arrigo said. “Pushing allowable concentrations of radioactivity in drinking water up orders of magnitude above the longstanding Safe Drinking Water Act levels goes in exactly the opposite direction than the official radiation risk estimates go.
“Under these proposals, people would be forced to get the radiation equivalent of a chest X-ray 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for up to several years, with no medical benefit or informed consent, just from drinking water. This is immoral.”
The public has 45 days from when it is published in the Federal Register to comment to the EPA on the PAG-Protective Action Guides.
“These proposed changes are a particularly egregious gift to the energy industry, which would essentially be given a free pass whenever nuclear or fracking waste enters our water supply,”
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch and author of the new book, Frackopoly, said. “The EPA under President Obama has also whitewashed the impact of fracking on drinking water. This is more of the same when it comes to his EPA’s pro-industry, hands-off regulation of toxic practices that can harm public health.” [Emphasis added]
EPA PUSHING HUGE HIKE IN DRINKING WATER RADIOACTIVITY Press Release by PEER, June 7, 2016
Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled a plan allowing radioactive contamination in drinking water at concentrations vastly greater than the levels permitted by the Safe Drinking Water Act for long periods following release of nuclear materials, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The new guidance would permit radiation exposures equivalent to 250 chest X-rays a year for the general population for an unlimited time period.
EPA’s curiously named “Protective Action Guides” (or PAGs) dramatically relax allowable doses of radioactive material in public drinking water following a Fukushima-type meltdown or “dirty bomb” attack. [And frac waste dumping, legal or illegal] They cover the “intermediate phase” after “releases have been brought under control” – an unspecified period that may last for weeks, months or even years.
The agency has declared that the strict limits for chemical exposure in the Safe Drinking Water Act “may not be appropriate…during a radiation incident.” EPA states that it “expects that the responsible party…will take action to return to compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act maximum contaminant levels as soon as practicable” but during the indefinite meantime –
- The general population may be exposed to radioactive iodine-131 at 10,350 pico-curies per liter of water. By contrast, the current limit is 3, resulting in a 3,450-times increase;
- The current strontium-90 limit of 8 pico-curies per liter would be allowed a 925-fold increase; and
- In an attempt to shield “sensitive populations,” the plan proposes 500 millirem per year for the general population but only 100 millirem for children under 15, pregnant or nursing mothers without explaining how these latter groups will get access to less contaminated water.
“Given this monstrous proposal, it unclear what lessons EPA learned [Perhaps the EPA has learned well from the endless, unfixable water contamination cases in frac fields across America?] from the contaminated water calamity of Flint, Michigan,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing to the Orwellian language EPA uses to describe its PAGs as “a more robust and complete tool” for radiological incident response. “It is unfathomable that a public health agency would prescribe subjecting people to radioactive concentrations a thousand times above Safe Drinking Water Act limits as a ‘protective’ measure.”
Internal EPA documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by PEER show that EPA itself concluded that proposed concentrations “would exceed MCLs [Maximum Contaminant Limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act] by a factor of 100, 1000, and in two instances, 7 million.” The internal analysis estimated for one radionuclide that drinking only one small glass of water “would result in an exposure that corresponds to a lifetime of drinking liters of water per day at the MCL level.”
The Bush Administration in its last days unsuccessfully tried to put forward similar proposals, which the incoming Obama Administration pulled back. Now, in the waning months of the Obama Administration, those plans are moving forward with new exposure limits higher than the Bush plan it had rejected.
“President Obama goes to Hiroshima to urge a nuclear-free world while his EPA facilitates a nuclear-ridden water supply,” added Ruch. “It speaks volumes that the current Obama drinking water plan is less protective than his predecessor’s.”
These Drinking Water PAGs will be open for public comment for 45 days following their publication in the Federal Register later this week. Notwithstanding public comment, these PAGs may have already gone into effect. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Commonly used testing methods may underestimate the total radioactivity of wastewater produced by gas wells that use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to tap the Marcellus Shale, a geological formation in the northeastern United States, concludes a new study. The findings suggest government agencies should consider retooling some testing recommendations and take a fresh look at possible worker exposure to potentially harmful waste, the authors say. But some outside researchers are skeptical that the laboratory study reflects real-world conditions.
Fracking, which involves injecting water mixed with chemicals and sand deep underground in order to fracture rock and release oil and gas, generates large amounts of wastewater. Some of the waste is simply injected water that flows back to the surface. But in the Marcellus and other formations, a major waste component is salty, mineral rich water found naturally underground. Researchers have long known that this natural brine can carry radioactive components, including radon gas, radium, and other isotopes of uranium and thorium. And the waste’s radioactivity has gotten increased attention as a fracking boom in the Marcellus has resulted in the recovery of millions of liters of wastewater, which is typically stored, treated, or recycled for use in other fracking wells. In some cases, improper handling has resulted in the release of radioactive fracking waste that has contaminated streams and rivers.
Although EPA has recognized potential problems with current testing methods for use on fracking wastewater, it is not clear whether the agency is contemplating new recommendations. “EPA does not have authority to regulate [hydraulic fracturing] wastewaters as they are generated,”[So, deregulate instead?] said an EPA representative in a statement. Its “non-regulatory” testing methods, the statement noted, are available only “as a tool for hydraulic fracturing.” [Emphasis added]
The EPA openly acknowledges that fracking fluid contains “thousands of chemicals,” but nowhere is there mention of radioactivity in its risk assessments.Now, a new study reveals the “natural gas” industry may be hiding a secret as dark and deadly as the one the nuclear industry has been trying to conceal for decades.
Researchers at the University of Iowa obtained a 200-liter drum of fracking wastewater obtained from the Marcellus Shale region in 2012. The sample was measured for existing levels of radioisotopes, and then estimates were made for the total radioactivity that would be produced within the fluids in the future if left within a closed space. They confirmed the presence of radioactive radium, polonium, and lead. They also measured an increase in the decay products 210lead and 228thorium. Finally, they determined that the radioactivity would continue to increase for more than 100 years due to the formation of the decay products of 210lead and 210polonium.
This is not the first time that a radioactivity problem with fracking wastewater has been cited in the published literature. For instance, a report published in Environmental Science and Technology in 2013 found that fracking wastewater discharge by the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility in Pennsylvania lead to 226radium concentrations that were approximately 200 times higher than normally expected in stream sediments near the facility.
Fracking’s Radioactivity Could Be As Dangerous As Nuclear Power’s Releases
Clearly, the “natural gas” industry has a new PR nightmare on its hands. [Emphasis added]
Also on Monday, June 14, 2016, CHECK THE “REFER ALSO TOs”: Will waste water kill fracing? EPA bans disposal of frac waste at public treatment plants. Injecting it causes seismicity, recycling it is costly, using it to irrigate and landspraying it contaminates food, dumping it into waterways kills fish, pits filled with it leak, breathing it in aerosols corrodes lungs. What will companies do with it?
Rather than kill fracking, the USA will help fracking kill fish, wildlife, Americans, all life? ]