U.S. Providing Inadequate Radiation Readings to the Public

The EPA is – apparently – monitoring drinking water only for radioiodine, but not for radioactive cesium or other radioactive isotopes:

<a href=”http://opendata.socrata.com/Government/Drinking-Water-RadNet-Laboratory-Analysis/4ig7-9eqd” title=”Drinking Water RadNet Laboratory Analysis” target=”_blank”>Drinking Water RadNet Laboratory Analysis</a>

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I previously noted that the San Jose Mercury News reports:

EPA officials, however, refused to answer questions or make staff members available to explain the exact location and number of monitors, or the levels of radiation, if any, being recorded at existing monitors in California. Margot Perez-Sullivan, a spokeswoman at the EPA’s regional headquarters in San Francisco, said the agency’s written statement would stand on its own.

Critics said the public needs more information.

“It’s disappointing,” said Bill Magavern, director of Sierra Club California. “I have a strong suspicion that EPA is being silenced by those in the federal government who don’t want anything to stand in the way of a nuclear power expansion in this country, heavily subsidized by taxpayer money.”

Kepr TV reports today:

There have been no readings in our area for two weeks now. And those readings are critical to making sure our radiation levels aren’t up.

***

It’s only one of four stations in Washington watched by the state and feds.

And KEPR told you, you could track those readings online as well. But after KEPR checked back we noticed something wrong.

In April, the readings stop. Seattle, Spokane and Tumwater still have readings. So why not Richland?

KEPR started by making calls to the Washington State Department of Health. They’re the ones that post the data. But KEPR was told the monitor is actually owned by the feds. The EPA owns and operates it.

***

An EPA spokesperson told KEPR fixing the air monitor is not a priority.

Here’s the EPA’s statement: “Since the gamma and filter/cartridge information is still being provided consistently, we are confident that this RADNET monitor is offering us a comprehensive, real-time picture of what’s happening, radiation-wise, in the Tri-Cities.”

But after the Tri-Cities just tested positive for radiation in our drinking water, it’s important to keep tabs on how our environment

It’s not just Washington state. The EPA previously pulled 8 of its 18 radiation monitors in California, Oregon and Washington because (by implication) they are giving readings which seem too high. And Alexander Higgins reports that EPA radiation monitors are broken in 37 cities.

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gunerson says that the U.S. government is not doing enough to monitor radiation (and publicly disclose the results):

Fukushima Accident Severity Level Raised to ‘7’: Gundersen Discusses Lack of US Radiation Monitoring Data from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Truthout notes:

“The rainwater appears to be contaminated, and that rainwater falls on rangelands and agricultural fields, but we’re not getting any data on agricultural crops and little data on milk,” said Dan Hirsch of the nuclear watchdog group Committee to Bridge the Gap.

Hirsch told Truthout that he is not sure if radiation is posing a threat to public health because the government is not doing enough testing, and agencies are putting “spin” on the data they do release.

***

Patty Lovera, the assistant director of watchdog group Food and Water Watch, said that government agencies need to do more testing for radiation in domestic products and food imported from Japan before making blanket statements dismissing the possibility of a threat to public health. She said there is a “very concerted effort to reassure people,” and criticized public officials for making analogies between radiation found in food and water and radiation from x-rays and cat scans.

***

Like Hirsch, Lovera wants government agencies to be more upfront about the possible risks of radiation, even at the levels reported by the EPA, so individuals of different ages and health statuses can make the right dietary choices.

“That sophisticated of a conversation isn’t happening,” Lovera said. “Instead, it’s ‘don’t worry, don’t worry we’ll tell you when there’s an emergency’ … but with an increased understanding of low-level exposure, there should be more information out there so individuals can make choices.”

***

Hirsch sees a potential conflict of interest. He is concerned that the US government may be downplaying the dangers of radiation from the Daiichi plant to avoid undermining support for new nuclear projects in the US. He pointed out that the Obama administration has affirmed its commitment to building more nuclear reactors in the US and has urged Congress to approve $54 billion in subsidized loans for new reactors.

“This is kind of a run-through for what would happen if a similar disaster occurred in the US,” said Hirsch, who lectures on nuclear policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “It seems to me that the agencies are getting an F.”

This is disappointing … but not surprising, given that the American government has a history of covering up negative information about nuclear power and underplaying damage caused by nuclear accidents. See this and this.

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