Relax, It’s Just a Run-of-the-Mill Nuke Spill

www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/26/relax-its-just-a-run-of-the-mill-nuke-spill/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=relax-its-just-a-run-of-the-mill-nuke-spill

by DAVE LINDORFF
April 26, 2012

The Limerick Incident Wasn’t an “EPPI”

A little over a month ago, back on March 19, at 3:00 in the morning, the Limerick Nuclear Power Station, which runs two aging GE nuclear reactors along the Schuylkill River west of Philadelphia, had an accident.  As much as 15,000 gallons of reactor water contaminated with five times the official safe limit of radioactive Tritium as well as an unknown amount of other dangerous isotopes from the reactor’s fission process blew off a manhole cover and ran out of a large pipe, flowing into a streambed and on into the river from which Philadelphia and a number of smaller towns draw their municipal water supplies.

No public announcement of this spill was made at the time, so the public in those communities had no idea that it had occurred, and water system operators had no opportunity to shut down their intakes from the river.  There was no report about the spill in Philadelphia’s two daily newspapers or on local news programs.

Only weeks later, after the regional office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was finally sent an official report by Exelon, the owner of the plant, did a public notice get posted on the NRC’s  website, after  which some excellent reporting on the incident was done by Evan Brandt, a reporter for a local paper called The Pottstown Mercury.

We contacted the NRC regional office with oversight over Limerick and were told that Exelon had only reported the incident to state authorities — the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). A call to the DEP elicited a response that the state agency, now in the hands of a Republican governor who has shown open distain for environmental concerns ranging from nuclear waste to regulation of natural gas fracking chemicals, that it did not feel it was necessary to issue any public report on the spill. “Exelon assured us that it was not an EPPI incident,” explained DEP regional office spokeswoman Deborah Fries.

“What’s an EPPI?” she was asked. “It’s an Event of Potential Public Interest,” Fries replied.

In other words, Exelon and the state’s DEP  and PEMA officials, meeting behind closed doors, agreed that the spilling of up to 15,000 gallons of radioactive isotope-laced reactor water into a river that supplies drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people was not an event of “potential public interest,” and so they didn’t make it public, thus insuring that it would not become a matter of public interest, or even of public knowledge!  The logic is impeccable, though the NRC subsequently protested that Exelon should have reported the incident to the commission, which would automatically have posted it on its website as public notice of a spill.
Read more

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Cancer patients’ urine suspected in Wissahickon iodine-131 levels

http://articles.philly.com/2011-07-21/news/29798099_1_drinking-water-radioactive-iodine-water-department

July 21, 2011|By Sandy Bauers, Inquirer Staff Writer

Three weeks after an earthquake and tsunami severely damaged Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, Lisa Daniels opened an e-mail with test results of river water samples from Southeastern Pennsylvania.

It was just after lunch April 1. Nationwide, officials were testing rain, rivers, milk, and other substances to learn if radioactivity from the stricken plant was present.

They’d seen it after Chernobyl, and now it was showing up nationwide, including in rainwater from a deluge in central Pennsylvania.

Daniels, a water division chief at the state Department of Environmental Protection, wasn’t worried. Enough time had passed that the radiation would have decayed or been carried away.

But when she looked at the sample from the Wissahickon Creek near Green Lane, just upstream from a city drinking water intake, she froze.

None of the other river samples in the batch showed iodine-131. But this one did.

By 6 p.m. that day, that drinking water intake would be getting extra treatment, and officials would be embarking on a detective mission that has generated interest nationwide.

Since then, officials have found more iodine-131 in the Wissahickon, and at several sewage treatment plants along the creek.

They’ve also realized that worrisome levels of iodine-131 had been detected long before the Fukushima accident in several Philadelphia drinking water samples taken as part of an obscure monitoring program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Within that limited data set of 59 locations across the country, Philadelphia’s levels were the highest in the previous decade, the Water Department discovered.

So Fukushima couldn’t be the cause after all.

The source they now suspect was a surprise. Iodine-131 is used to treat thyroid cancer, and they suspect it’s coming from patients excreting excess radioactivity in their urine, which then winds up in rivers, and ultimately in Philadelphia’s drinking water intakes.

  • Iodine-131 is not good for you. When radioactive iodine gets into the body, it concentrates in the thyroid gland. Low doses can impair the gland’s activity, according to the EPA. Long-term exposure to high amounts can cause cancer.

Officials from the Water Department, the EPA, and the DEP emphasize that the levels detected are tiny and don’t constitute a public health threat. Philadelphia’s drinking water meets standards for radioactivity and remains safe, they say. Read more

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State may limit drilling byproduct from being spread on farms

Pennsylvania is seeking to limit the use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer on farmers’ fields if the sludge comes from sewer plants that treat wastewater from natural gas drilling.

Environmental regulators’ concerns about the sludge were highlighted in a New York Times article on Friday that described the risks of radioactive contaminants in the drilling wastewater concentrating in the sludge during treatment. The sludge, also called biosolids, is sometimes sold or given away to farmers and gardeners as fertilizer if it meets certain standards for pathogens and metals.

The Times article quotes from a transcript of a March 15 conference call between officials with the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection about how to better regulate discharges of the wastewater that can be high in salts, metals and naturally occurring radioactive materials.

DEP is developing a guidance document about how to include new wastewater treatment standards into permits for new or expanding treatment plants that handle the drilling fluids. The new standards limit the amount of salty discharge, called total dissolved solids, that can enter state streams.

The draft guidance document would also bar treatment plants that receive untreated drilling wastewater from using their sludge for land application.

Ron Furlan, a division manager for DEP’s Bureau of Water Standards and Facility Regulation, is quoted in the the New York Times as saying sludge was included in the guidance document because “we don’t have a good handle on the radiological concerns right now, and in any case we don’t want people land-applying biosolids that may be contaminated to any significant level by radium 226-228 or other emitters.”

The guidance does not carry the legal weight of a regulation and would not be imposed on treatment plants unless their discharge permit is up for renewal or they apply for a new or expanded permit.

The draft guidance also proposes that treatment plants accepting untreated drilling wastewater develop radiation protection “action plans” and have monitoring requirements for radium 226 and 228, gross alpha and uranium established in their permits.

In a letter this week to the EPA, DEP Acting Secretary Michael Krancer wrote that the state has directed 14 public water supplies that draw from rivers downstream from treatment plants that accept Marcellus Shale wastewater to test the finished drinking water for radioactive contaminants and other pollutants. The state also called on 25 treatment plants that accept the wastewater to begin twice monthly testing for radioactivity in their discharges.

Tests of seven state rivers at sites downstream from wastewater treatment plants last fall showed that levels of radioactivity were at or below normal levels.

In the conference call quoted by the New York Times, environmental regulators also expressed concerns about radionuclides settling in the sediment of rivers where the incompletely treated wastewater is discharged from sewer plants.

“If you were really looking for radionuclides, that’s the first place I would look,” Furlan said.

DEP spokeswoman Katy Gresh said Friday that there are currently no plans to begin testing river sediment for radionuclides.

“We will use the results of the increased testing/monitoring to see what is being discharged before making that decision,” she said.

By Laura Legere (Staff Writer)
Published: April 9, 2011

http://citizensvoice.com/news/state-may-limit-drilling-byproduct-from-being-spread-on-farms-1.1130088#axzz1J1xZtYwG

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Radioactive Frack Waste Dumping Prohibited

W.Va. bans wastewater from being let loose in rivers, streams, wells

WHEELING – West Virginia environmental regulators do not allow natural gas companies to dump radioactive frack water from drilling sites into streams, rivers or injection wells.

Pennsylvania regulators are preparing to screen the frack water for radioactive elements such as uranium and radium.

These elements are found in fracking wastewater because they are naturally occurring in the earth.

Mountain State officials said such rules are already in place in West Virginia to prevent these elements from entering the state’s water supplies.

“Back in 2009, we informed the wastewater treatment plants that if they wanted to try to treat the frack water, there were 41 parameters beyond what they were currently testing for that they would be required to monitor, and one of those was for radiation,” said West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathy Cosco.

“If a wastewater treatment plant came to us and said, ‘We want to try to treat this fluid,’ it is already understood that they would be required to test for those parameters and the radiation,” she added.

Marcellus Shale Coalition President Kathryn Klaber admits natural gas development can release radioactive materials, but said the levels of the released elements do not pose much of a hazard.

The coalition is a Canonsburg, Pa.-based group whose members include drilling companies such as Chesapeake Energy, Range Resources, along with others.

“In Pennsylvania, we are now required to treat the water to the point that it is drinkable by the time it leaves our facilities,” she added.

Prodded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Pennsylvania regulators said they are expanding the scope of water tests to screen for radioactive pollutants and other contaminants. The tests should check for radium, uranium and the salty dissolved solids that could potentially make drilling wastewater environmentally damaging, according to letters Keystone State officials sent to 14 public water authorities and 25 wastewater facilities.

Radium that is swallowed or inhaled can accumulate in a person’s bones. Long-term exposure increases the risk of developing several diseases, such as lymphoma, bone cancer, and diseases that affect the formation of blood, EPA officials said.

Most major gas producing states require drillers to dump their wastewater into deep shafts drilled into the earth to prevent it from contaminating surface water.

Although it has moved to limit it, Pennsylvania allows partially treated drilling wastewater to be discharged into rivers from which communities draw drinking water.

Some Pennsylvania drilling wastewater is reused or trucked out-of-state for disposal underground. Cosco said West Virginia does not allow frack water to be injected into these underground wells, but Ohio does. The well David Hill Inc. is drilling at the top of Kirkwood Heights near Bridgeport may become one of these injection wells, prompting Belmont County Township Association President Greg Bizzarri to recently say, “It seems like, basically, Ohio is a dumping ground.”

Of the wastewater that was taken to Pennsylvania treatment plants in recent months, the great majority went to seven plants that discharge into the Allegheny River, the Mahoning River, the Conemaugh River, the Blacklick Creek, the Monongahela River, the Susquehanna River and the South Fork Ten-mile Creek.

Last month, the Pennsylvania DEP said earlier tests from those seven waterways showed no harmful levels of radium, which exists naturally underground and is sometimes found in drilling wastewater that gushes from wells.

EPA spokeswoman Donna Heron said her agency would review the Keystone State’s situation, noting, “We will continue to work closely with the state of Pennsylvania on all the issues involving Marcellus Shale.”The EPA is currently planning a nationwide study on the environmental consequences, particularly the impact on the quality and quantity of water.

Though Klaber said the issue of radioactivity may be exaggerated by some of those who oppose natural gas development, she also knows there are legitimate community concerns for her industry to address.

“We are trying to respond to those concerns,” she said. “We have to make sure we get this right, considering how important drinking water is.”

April 8, 2011
By CASEY JUNKINS – Staff Writer With AP Dispatches , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/553874/Radioactive-Frack-Waste-Dumping-Prohibited.html?nav=515

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State expanding water tests for contaminants from drilling

Most treatment facilities unable to remove many pollutants, EPA letter says.

HARRISBURG — Prodded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the state said it is expanding the scope of water tests to screen for radioactive pollutants and other contaminants from the state’s booming natural gas drilling industry.

The state Department of Environmental Protection’s acting secretary, Michael Krancer, wrote Wednesday to the EPA to say that he has requested additional testing from some public water suppliers and wastewater treatment facilities.

Those steps, he said, were in the works before the EPA’s regional administrator, Shawn Garvin, sent a March 7 letter asking Pennsylvania to begin more water testing to make sure drinking water isn’t being contaminated by drillers. The state’s requests for additional testing, however, were made later in March, Krancer said.

The tests should check for radium, uranium and the salty dissolved solids that could potentially make drilling wastewater environmentally damaging, according to copies of letters the DEP said it sent to 14 public water authorities and 25 wastewater facilities.

In his letter last month, Garvin said most treatment facilities are unable to remove many of the pollutants in the often-toxic drilling water. Substances of concern, he said, include radioactive contaminants, organic chemicals, metals and salty dissolved solids.

In his letter to Garvin, Krancer seemed to bridle at the perceived suggestion that the state isn’t doing its job keeping up with the drilling industry’s hot pursuit of the nation’s largest-known natural gas reservoir, the Marcellus Shale.

“Rest assured that well before receiving your letter, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has been focusing on issues relating to natural gas drilling, and prioritizes protecting the environment and public health and safety above all else,” Krancer wrote.

Garvin also had asked the state to re-examine permits previously issued to the treatment plants handling the waste, saying they lacked “critical provisions.” Krancer responded that requirements to monitor for substances of concern will be added to permits upon renewal and where warranted.”

An EPA spokeswoman, Donna Heron, said Thursday that her agency received Pennsylvania’s letter and is reviewing it.

Pennsylvania is the center of Marcellus Shale drilling activity, with more than 2,000 wells drilled in the past three years and many thousands more planned.

Drilling for gas in deep shale deposits is emerging as a major new source of energy that supporters say is homegrown, cheap and friendlier environmentally than coal or oil.

But shale drilling requires injecting huge volumes of water underground to help shatter the rock — a process called hydraulic fracturing. Some of that water then returns to the surface. In addition to producing gas, the Marcellus Shale wells produce large amounts of ultra-salty water tainted with metals like barium and strontium, trace radioactivity and small amounts of toxic chemicals injected by energy companies.

Most big gas states require drillers to dump their wastewater into deep shafts drilled into the earth to prevent it from contaminating surface or ground water. Pennsylvania, however, allows partially treated drilling wastewater to be discharged into rivers from which communities draw drinking water.

Before Garvin’s letter, water suppliers typically tested only occasionally for radium, and it had been years since the utilities drawing from rivers in the affected drilling region had done those tests.

Krancer also said his agency is seeking money to add more water-quality testing stations on Pennsylvania’s rivers. The state already is testing at seven spots on Pennsylvania’s waterways that are downriver from treatment plants that discharge partially treated gas-drilling wastewater, but upriver from public drinking water intakes.

Some Pennsylvania drilling wastewater is reused or trucked out-of-state for disposal underground. Of the wastewater taken to treatment plants in recent months, the great majority went to seven plants that discharge into the Allegheny River, the Mahoning River, the Conemaugh River, the Blacklick Creek, the Monongahela River, the Susquehanna River and the South Fork Ten-mile Creek.

Last month, the DEP said earlier tests from those seven waterways showed no harmful levels of radium, which exists naturally underground and is sometimes found in drilling wastewater that gushes from wells.

Radium that is swallowed or inhaled can accumulate in a person’s bones. Long-term exposure increases the risk of developing several diseases, such as lymphoma, bone cancer, and diseases that affect the formation of blood, EPA said.

April 8, 2011

http://www.timesleader.com/news/State_expanding_water_tests_for_contaminants_from_drilling_04-07-2011.html

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EPA: Expect More Radiation in Rainwater

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday reported finding elevated levels of iodine-131, a product of nuclear fission, in rainwater in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. The levels exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) permitted in drinking water, but EPA continues to assure the public there is no need for alarm:

“It is important to note that the corresponding MCL for iodine-131 was calculated based on long-term chronic exposures over the course of a lifetime – 70 years. The levels seen in rainwater are expected to be relatively short in duration,” the agency states in a FAQ that accompanied yesterday’s brief news release.

“In both cases these are levels above the normal background levels historically reported in these areas.”

EPA said it is receiving “verbal reports” of higher levels of radiation in rainwater samples from other states as well, and that Americans should continue to expect short-term contamination of rainwater as radioactive isotopes spread through the atmosphere from Japan.

“We continue to expect similar reports from state agencies and others across the nation given the nature and duration of the Japanese nuclear incident.”

EPA is analyzing rainwater samples taken from 18 monitoring stations around the nation, promising to release results soon. It is stepping up sampling of rainwater, drinking water, and milk.

The Food and Drug Administration released a statement on milk Saturday:

At this time, theoretical models do not indicate that harmful amounts of radiation will reach the U.S. and, therefore, there is little possibility of domestic milk being contaminated as a result of grass or feed contamination in the U.S. FDA, together with other agencies, is carefully monitoring any possibility for distribution of radiation.”

EPA also maintains 140 air monitoring stations. Those have detected radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in five Western states: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, and, as of yesterday, Nevada.

The isotopes detected in Western states have been found in minuscule amounts, officials say, much too small to threaten health. Scientists trace the isotopes to Japan because they are products of nuclear fission—iodine-131, xenon-133, and cesium-137.

“Unless you have an accident like this, you wouldn’t expect to see this. No doubt it’s from Japan,” Ted Hartwell, manager of the Desert Research Institute’s Community Environmental Monitoring Program, told the Associated Press.

Mar. 28 2011

http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffmcmahon/2011/03/28/epa-expect-more-radiation-in-rainwater/

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Pa.’s attempts to track gas drilling waste flawed

Liquid that comes out of the wells — first in a gush, and then gradually for the years and decades it is in operation — is ultra-salty and contaminated with substances like barium, strontium, radium, and other things that can be damaging to the environment.

The natural gas industry’s claim that it is making great strides in reducing how much polluted wastewater it discharges to Pennsylvania rivers is proving difficult to assess because of inconsistent reporting by energy companies — and at least one big data entry error in the state’s system for tracking the contaminated fluids.

Last month, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection released data that appeared to show that drillers had found a way to recycle nearly 6.9 million barrels of the toxic brine produced by natural gas wells — fluid that in past years would have been sent to wastewater plants for partial treatment, and then discharged into rivers that also serve as drinking water supplies.

But those figures were revealed Thursday to have been wildly inflated, due to a mistake by Seneca Resources Corp., a subsidiary of Houston-based National Fuel Gas Co. The company said a worker gave some data to the state in the wrong unit of measure, meaning that about 125,000 barrels of recycled wastewater was misreported as more than 5.2 million barrels.

The error left the false impression that, as an industry, gas companies had created about 10.6 million barrels of wastewater in the last six months of 2010, and then recycled at least 65 percent of that total.

“They did put in gallons where they should have put in barrels,” Seneca spokeswoman Nancy Taylor explained after the error was reported Thursday by the Philadelphia Inquirer. There are 42 gallons in every barrel. Taylor said the company was working to correct its information.

So how much waste did the industry actually recycle? It may be impossible to say with certainty.

Not counting Seneca’s bad numbers — and assuming that the rest of the state’s data is accurate — drillers reported that they generated about 5.4 million barrels of wastewater in the second half of 2010. Of that, DEP lists about 2.8 million barrels going to treatment plants that discharge into rivers and streams, about 460,000 barrels being sent to underground disposal wells, and about 2 million barrels being recycled or treated at plants with no river discharge.

That would suggest a recycling rate of around 38 percent, a number that stands in stark contrast to the 90 percent recycling rate claimed by some industry representatives. But Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, stood by the 90 percent figure this week after it was questioned by The Associated Press, The New York Times and other news organizations.

“I am definitely holding to the 90 percent,” she said, adding that her figure was based on internal industry data. “It is definitely high and going higher.”

As for the wastewater management reports filed annually with the state and reported to the public, she and other people in the industry said they aren’t fully representative of the industry’s practices.

At least one company, Range Resources of Fort Worth, Texas, said it hadn’t been reporting much of its recycled wastewater at all, because it believed the DEP’s tracking system only covered water that the company sent out for treatment or disposal, not fluids it reused on the spot.

Another company that had boasted of a near 100 percent recycling rate, Cabot Oil & Gas, also Houston-based, told The AP that the figure only included fluids that gush from a well once it is opened for production by a process known as hydraulic fracturing. Company spokesman George Stark said it didn’t include different types of wastewater unrelated to fracturing, like groundwater or rainwater contaminated during the drilling process by chemically tainted drilling muds.

DEP officials did not immediately respond to inquiries about the problems with the state’s data.

The AP reported in January that previous attempts by the state to track where wastewater was going were also flawed. Some companies reported that wells had generated wastewater, but failed to say where it went. The state was unable to account for the disposal method for nearly 1.3 million barrels of wastewater, or about a fifth of the total reported in the 12 month period that ended June 30. At least some went to a facility that had not received permission from regulators.

Among large gas-producing states, Pennsylvania is the only one that allows substantial amounts of wastewater produced by gas drilling to be discharged into rivers. Other states don’t allow the practice because of environmental concerns. The preferred disposal method in most other places is to inject the well water into rock formations far underground, where it can’t contaminate surface water.

Liquid that comes out of the wells — first in a gush, and then gradually for the years and decades it is in operation — is ultra-salty and contaminated with substances like barium, strontium, radium, and other things that can be damaging to the environment.

Pennsylvania’s strategy for protecting the health of its rivers is based partly on knowing which waterways are getting the waste, and how much they are receiving.

Regulators monitor which rivers are being used as discharge points for treated well wastewater, and use reports filed by Seneca and other companies to help decide which waterways should be watched for signs that the rivers aren’t assimilating the waste stream. Even if Seneca’s data error had gone unnoticed — unlikely given the size of the blunder — it probably would not have had an effect on that effort, because it involved waste not sent to treatment plants for river disposal.

MARCH 10, 2011

http://online.wsj.com/article/AP846de77b9e4c41dbb94ddb76dca74dd6.html

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Radiation-fracking link sparks swift reactions

Reports this week of high radiation levels in Marcellus Shale waste fracking fluids and weak regulation of the industry have turned on a spigot of action by federal and state officials.

U.S. Environmental Protection Administrator Lisa Jackson visited the agency’s Region III office in Philadelphia Friday to ascertain the radiation issue will be addressed in an ongoing national study on the drinking water impacts of hydraulic fracturing, an industrial process used in shale gas development.

The EPA will seek data from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the drilling industry on radioactivity in the fracking fluid “flowback” water.

In a statement released following Ms. Jackson’s meeting, the EPA said that while the national study progresses, it “will not hesitate to take any steps under the law to protect Americans whose health may be at risk,” including enforcement actions to ensure that drinking water supplies are protected.

After a well is drilled, millions of gallons of water, sand and chemical additives are pumped deep underground under high pressure to crack the shale formation and release the gas it contains. As much as 20 percent of that fracking fluid waste returns to the surface with the gas and contains a variety of radioactive minerals from the shale.

The New York Times reported that hydraulic fracturing wastewater at 116 of 179 deep gas wells in the state contained high levels of radiation and its effect on public drinking water supplies is unknown because water suppliers are required to conduct tests of radiation only sporadically.

A number of public water suppliers, including the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and Pennsylvania American Water Co. said this week that they would voluntarily test for radiation.

State Rep. Camille Bud George, D-Clearfield, announced he will introduce legislation calling for mandatory and independent radiation testing of all public water supplies that could potentially be affected by Marcellus Shale drilling wastewater discharges, and requiring the drilling and gas companies to pay for the testing.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, renewed his call for a moratorium on drilling and said he will introduce legislation to toughen state Oil and Gas Act regulations on well siting around residences and streams, and impose a severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas production. Gov. Tom Corbett opposes such a tax.

“A moratorium is the most reasonable approach, especially in light of recent revelations about serious threats to our drinking water supply,” Mr. Ferlo said. “This bill provides a framework for updating and improving regulations, as well as retaining the economic benefits of Marcellus Shale development.”

In a statement issued Thursday, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, one of the most mainstream of the state’s environmental organizations, called on Mr. Corbett to drop plans to open more of the state’s forests and parks to Marcellus gas drilling.

By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11064/1129908-113.stm

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Nuclear plants pose threat to groundwater

http://www.pottsmerc.com/articles/2010/07/24/opinion/srv0000008904317.prt

The Pottstown Mercury (pottsmerc.com), Serving Pottstown, PA
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Opinion
Nuclear plants pose threat to groundwater

A radioactive groundwater disaster could be unfolding around U.S. nuclear plants, according to a shocking documented report released in 2010, titled “Leak First, Fix Later” that can be found at www.beyondnuclear.org.

102 of 104 U.S. nuclear reactors leaked radiation into groundwater from aging and deteriorating buried pipes under the reactors.

There are two to 20 miles of buried pipeline under each nuclear plant which obviously go largely uninspected and unmaintained.

Limerick Nuclear Plant’s 25 year old underground pipes may have already leaked. It’s virtually impossible to detect all leaks in miles of pipes tangled beneath the plant. Monitoring can easily fail to detect leaks.

This is a fractured bedrock aquifer where radioactive contamination can travel in any direction, at any depth, and fail to ever be detected. Reliable monitoring would be prohibitively costly.

Radioactive leaks from Limerick could impact any of the region’s residents, now or in the future. There’s cause for concern, precaution, and prevention now, before Exelon is permitted to operate Limerick Nuclear Plant for a total of 60 years. None of the 102 nukes that leaked operated more than 41 years.

Limerick operated since 1985 (25 years). Buried pipes carrying radioactive water are vulnerable to leaks.

A 20-year license extension to operate until 2049 would allow 35 years more years of radioactive water transport (60 years total). Think what happens to pipes in older homes.

We can’t trust Exelon to immediately detect or disclose leaks. NRC’s oversight and enforcement are extremely lax.

Prevention is the only cure. What happens if groundwater becomes radioactive? There’s no way to clean it up from the ground. Filtering is cost prohibitive for many, if not impossible. Over 100 to 200 radionuclides are associated with Limerick Nuclear plant.

Before NRC rubberstamps approval for a license extension until 2049, Exelon should be required to replace all pipes buried under Limerick which carry radioactive water.

Exelon, the company with a vested interest in the outcome, claimed there’s no problem at Limerick, based solely on their own monitoring and reporting. Evidence below at other Exelon nukes shows why we can’t believe or trust Exelon.

Radioactive water contamination at Exelon’s Braidwood Nuclear Plant in Illinois was called by some “Exelon’s Radioactive Watergate.” Exelon failed to disclose 22 recurring uncontrolled radioactive spills in buried pipelines from 1996 to 2005. Since then, numerous leaks over a 10-year span were revealed at two other Exelon nuclear plants in Illinois. Leaks were significant. Just two Braidwood releases totaled six million gallons of radioactive water. Exelon supplied bottled water to 600 people for more than four years, but groundwater was contaminated for 14 years. It still is. March 2010, a legal settlement was reached. Exelon will be supplying a water system. But groundwater and soil remain radioactive. The mother of a teen battling cancer said, “If the cancer is in the air we breathe or the water we drank, I don’t think there’s enough money to go around. I know they admitted to mistakes but how do you put a price tag on the environment?” Another resident said, “It’s scary to live here, but who in their right minds would buy homes here?”

At Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant in New Jersey Exelon failed to report radioactive water leaking from buried pipes until 2009, just seven days after NRC issued its license renewal for another 20 years. This radioactive water reached a major New Jersey aquifer that supplies drinking water to much of southern New Jersey (Reported 5/10). New Jersey DEP said the leaked radiation (50 times higher than levels allowed by law) has reached southern New Jersey’s main source of drinking water. Julia LaMense, Eastern Environmental Law Clinic, condemned NRC “for letting it come to this.” She said, “It’s a sad day when the ‘wait and see’ approach taken in response to yet another ‘trust us’ from Exelon results in contamination of one of the most significant aquifers in the region.”

The Mercury story March 28 by Evan Brandt showed the region’s residents are already subjected to too much carcinogenic groundwater contamination. It revealed that toxic plumes from two other industrial sites were contaminating groundwater in Limerick. Toxic, carcinogenic groundwater contamination will continue tor decades, if not forever, at Pottstown Landfill and the Oxy Superfund site.

It’s long past time for precaution and prevention. Exelon will apply for their 20-year Limerick Nuclear Plant license renewal soon. People who care about safe water for their families should get informed and get involved now. Call ACE at  610- 326-2387 and leave your name, phone, e-mail.

DR. LEWIS CUTHBERT

ACE President

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