A very disturbing story was done recently on a local news channel in Texas. KHOU 11 News in Houston did a story entitled “Texas Politicians New Agency Hid the Amount of Radiation in Drinking Water”. This news station obtained e-mails that were ordered to be released by the Texas Attorney General and these e-mails show that the top commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality were directing their staff to lower radiation test results, defying federal EPA rules.
An article on the KHOU 11 News website says that “for years, tests performed by the Texas Department of State Health Services showed the utility provided water that exceeded the EPA legal limit for exposure to alpha radiation”. The TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) “would consistently subtract off each tests margin of error from those results, making the actual testing results appear lower than they actually were”.
What exactly is alpha radiation?
Alpha radiation is a form of energy released when certain radioactive elements decay. Alpha radiation is emitted from radionuclides. Radionuclides can come from man-made sources but are also naturally occurring radioactive minerals such as uranium, radium and radon. These types of minerals are often found in bedrock along with other minerals like iron, arsenic, calcium and silica. As groundwater moves over the bedrock these radionuclides can be easily dissolved and can get into our drinking water.
According to the EPA, most drinking water sources do have some radioactive contaminants but normally occur in extremely low levels, levels that are low enough to not be considered a public health concern. However, at higher levels long-term exposure to these radioactive minerals can result in kidney damage and an increased risk of several different types of cancers.
To protect the public, the EPA has established standards for several types of radioactive contaminants found in drinking water. Those standards are as follows, this information is taken directly off the epa.gov website:
Combined radium 226/228 (5 pCi/L); beta emitters (4 mrems); gross alpha standard (15 pCi/L); and uranium (30 µg/L).
The e-mails brought to light by the KHOU 11 News report show a conspiracy by the TCEQ to cover up real data in order to convince the general public that their water is safe to drink. The EPA has stated that individual states should not add or subtract from the margin of error in their test results but that is precisely what the TCEQ has been doing so that it looks like their drinking water is within safe limits established by the EPA when in fact the radionuclides were as much as 25% higher than they should be.
What can I do about radionuclides in my water?
One of the things that are so disturbing about this story from KHOU 11 News is that the way you would normally find out if you have radionuclides in your water would be to contact your local utility for specific information on radionuclides. In this case however it is the local utility that was changing the data so it is more than likely that they would’ve told you that everything was fine and that your water safe to drink.
There are some ways to take things like radon and uranium out of your water. Aeration systems are the preferred method for radon removal. These systems cost approximately $4000 to install (for a whole house treatment system) and annual maintenance costs of such a system would be approximately $200. A reverse osmosis filtration system will remove uranium from drinking water and this type of system costs proximally $2500 to install with annual maintenance costs of $100-$150 annually.
To find out if you do have radionuclides in your water you can have samples tested by independent laboratories accredited by the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Conference (NELAC). More information about the NELAC can be found at their website – http://www.nelac-institute.org/
Category: Water Pollution