Houston I-Team Investigation Opens Fears of Under Reported Radioactive Drinking Water; Ohio Group Concurs

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter

(Based in part on KHOU I-Team investigation and public documents)

HOUSTON, TEX  (HNN) – Government documents pertaining to radiation contamination --- whether related to the Huntington Pilot Plant, the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, or other Cold War Atomic Energy Commission facilities --- the potential for continuing residual contamination and prior worker dosages have been compared  to a naturally occurring environmental standard.

 The standard has been applied to uranium and lead, for instance.

“Where I think the EPA was wrong was in neglecting some natural radioactive materials altogether,” said Dr. Arjun Makhijani, a physicist and former advisor to the EPA on radiation science in the KHOU interview.

Makhijani, a physicist and an engineer who has a PhD from Berkeley, has testified before Congress, and has served as an expert witness in Nuclear Regulatory Commission proceedings. He now runs the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.

“I have told them that their drinking water notions are dating from science from 1959,” he said.

Due to the above ground nuclear tests during the Cold War, EPA and other scientists concentrated on readings from man-made contaminants found in fallout particles.  In fact, the report states that the EPA continues to demand that utilities subtract “alpha radiation from uranium” prior to making a “gross alpha” radiation exposure report.  (Editor’s Note: The EPA told the Houston station that it was reevaluating uranium contamination standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act.)

According to the TV report, EPA has not updated regulations to make sure water utilities test for or measure certain naturally occurring type of radiation. These naturally occurring elements have the potential for a greater radiation dose and greater health risk than man-made Strontium 90.

The TV station cites Radium 224 as an element for  which alpha radiation has not been tested for in drinking water.

However, physicists like Makhijani say the “gross alpha” characterization is misleading to the public.  He says physicists like him use the true “total” exposure to a type of radiation to calculate your actual risk level for coming down with cancer or other health problems.  Without that true total, Makhijani said, you’re in the dark about your real risks.

KHOU: "Bottom line, you’re concerned for the safety of the nation’s drinking water?"

MAKHIJANI: "Yes."

Dr. David Ozonoff, a current environmental health professor and chair emeritus of the Department of Environmental Health at the Boston University School of Public Health, agreed.

OZONOFF: "Right now, I don’t know those things because they’re not giving me the information."

OHIO GROUP ALSO CONCERNED ABOUT BETA AND PHOTON EMITTERS

Coinciding with the I-Team investigation, an Ohio citizen’s group has concerns about “misinterpretation” of Federal EPA rule which were adopted in 2000.

Christine Borello , Concerned Citizens of Stark/CCLT/IEL, wrote in an e-mail, that while working with U.S. EPA officials about four years ago, they learned rules regarding “radiation in public drinking water pertaining to Beta and Photon Emitters had been improperly promulgated by the Ohio EPA.” Due to this misinterpretation, “Ohio EPA [incorrectly] decided to test for Beta/Photons when a public water facility is within a mile or less of a known nuclear storage facility.”

Based on the error, the state tested a dozen sites, “ignoring 788 other possible radioactive sites in Ohio” based on an April 9, 1992 US Senate hearing on Government Affairs which listed 803 contaminated and potentially contaminated with radioactivity” site in Ohio.

LINK TO I-TEAM INVESTIGATION: http://www.khou.com/home/I-Team-EPA-under-reports-radiation-in-Americas-drinking-water-.html



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