EPA Proposed New Emergency Limits For Radioactive Drinking Water

Original story Climate Progress June 10, 2016

New and higher radioactivity limits for drinking water tainted in the case of a nuclear emergency were put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency this week, a move that environmental organizations are calling “egregious.”

“The upshot really is that the [nuclear] industry really wants to be able to release more radioactivity and not be responsible for it,” Diane D’Arrigo, a project director at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, told ThinkProgress. “This is really a big loss.”

On Monday, the EPA proposed new guidelines for radiological emergencies — like a nuclear meltdown or a dirty bomb, a weapon that combines conventional explosives such as dynamite with radioactive material. During a radiological emergency, radioactive material could be released into the rivers, lakes, and streams used by public water suppliers. EPA is proposing non-regulatory guidance that authorities can use “to protect residents from experiencing the harmful effects from radiation in drinking water following an emergency.” Guidelines influence radioactive limits that trigger safety measures like local water use restrictions or deploying alternative water supplies. The EPA calls these guidelines the Protective Action Guide, or PAG.

According to Bloomberg BNA, rural water utilities welcomed the new PAG as it allows local decision makers to identify the best solutions. “When faced with contamination in the drinking water supply, local officials have to make immediate and difficult public welfare decisions,” Mike Keegan, an analyst for the National Rural Water Association, told Bloomberg BNA. “Their options may be limited by lack of alternative sources of drinking water or no possible way to immediately treat the drinking water.”

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