Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The San Fransisco Examiner: Last month, Bay Area rainwater exceeded Federal standards by "46 times"

Reported on March 4th:

"Bay Area rainwater tested last month exceeded federal standards for radiation in drinking water by 46 times, but a federal agency downplayed the potential health effects because the radiation is weakening rapidly and short-term exposure brings minimal risks.

Results released Saturday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show that rainwater tested in Richmond on March 22 contained 138 picocuries per liter of iodine-131, a radioisotope that can influence thyroid activity and cause cancerous cells. According to the EPA, drinking water is only permitted to contain 3 picocuries per liter."

138 picocuries = 5.106 becquerel per liter of water. We rarely use the Curie unit anymore because it's been replaced with the international unit, the Becquerel. I suppose reporting the level as 138 trillionths of a Curie makes it seem low.

"The department’s test results showed on March 24, rooftop water exceeded federal drinking water iodine-131 thresholds by 181 times, a number that has been decreasing since."

181 times the limit = 543 picocuries = 20.091 becquerel per liter of water

The EPA majorly dropped the ball here. If significant levels of Cs-137 were measured in bay area water or if higher concentrations of I-131 been found, i'm sure there would be a big public backlash. We need preemptive advice, or at least real-time measurements and warnings when it comes to this kind of stuff.

"EPA officials did not respond to inquiries about the speed of their response by press time. A statement on Saturday read, “It may take up to five days for results because of the number of samples being directed to the laboratory. This is to ensure the proper analysis and quality assurance measures takes place before the results are released.”
If it takes so long to measure,  how will the public be protected?

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