WE HAVE BEEN WAITING SINCE 1992
THE Old Document: In 1992 the EPA published its Manual of Protective Action Guides and Protective Actions for Nuclear Incidents. This is an excellent manual.
But One Major Fault: All radiation levels are given in REM per year. There is no guidance for the layman in terms airborne or waterborne concentrations in terms of micro Cuires or Becquerel /Liter for various isotopes.
The New Document: In contrast, the January 2009 Revisions provides actual concentration levels for 110 Nuclides of Interest, giving both Derived Response Levels and Committed Effective Dose. These Protective action Guide Levels(PAG levels) are very important since they tell the public health officials when to call a drinking water emergency and even when to evacuate the city!
TWO SETS OF EPA CONCENTRATION LEVELS
These new Protective action Guid line levels represent fairly high levels of contamination of immediate danger to the community. The PAG levels should not be confused with the much lower levels which constitute the Clean Drinking Water Levels needed to legally distribute drinking water that is totally safe for unlimited consumption.
ANNUAL or BIENNIAL WATER TESTING
Current law requires testing of drinking water only once every one or two years. This rule was originally based on geological sources for radioactive minerals in water. And on the tedious lab procedures required to see very low levels of radioactivity in the water. Such long intervals between testing are clearly incompatible with protection of the public from high or mid-level water contamination from highway accidents, industrial pollution or terrorist actions.
NEW TECHNICAL ADVANCES
Clearly, real-time, continuous monitoring would be highly desireable. But up until the last year or two, it has been difficult to detect gamma emitters in water and impossible to detect or measure Alpha and Beta emitters in flowing water.
Happily this situation has changed. Technical Associates of Canoga Park California is now producing real-time continuous drinking water monitors that measure Alpha, Beta, Gamma emitters down to the 2009 PAG levels and below. http://www.tech-associates.com/dept/sales/product-info/nexgen-sss.pdf
CONTROVERSY or just CAUTION?
The EPA website says: “The PAG Manual is an important science-based guideline that addresses emergency action levels for radiation exposure. Draft revisions were approved by the former Deputy Administrator shortly before the inauguration. The new team at EPA wishes to review the PAGs revisions before proceeding with a notice of availability and public comment.”