Philadelphia’s Water, What Gives?

Posted by By at 9 May, at 11 : 30 AM Print

The Philadelphia Water Department is still at a loss to find the source of Radioactive Iodine-131 at a couple of its water treatment plants.

The Department’s Acting Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Services, Chris Crockett, told the Philadelphia Daily News “There’s something unusual here, and we need to figure out what’s going on.”

It now turns out that elevated levels of the radioactive iodine have been in the water supply since 2007, well before the nuclear disaster in Japan. Why didn’t anyone know about it until recently? Well, that is another mystery.

One can not detect Iodine-131 without tests. It has no smell, color and does not alter the taste of the water. Iodine occurs naturally in the environment, however, Iodine 131 is radioactive. Most municipal water systems have trace amounts, but comparatively speaking, Philadelphia is off the charts.

Philadelphia’s water department says it became aware of the numbers following tests in the aftermath of a near meltdown at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. City officials,  gleaning statistics from the EPA, suddenly realized it has been a long-term issue.

Philadelphia’s water, at two of its three treatment plants, has exceeded federal drinking water standards nine times over the past four years. But, Crockett said the test results were not shared.

Consuming large amounts of Iodine-131 has proven to cause some types of cancer.

As elevated as the levels are in Philadelphia, it is still well within consumption safety standards, and because it has such a short life, the common thought among doctors is that it isn’t harmful. However, you will find disagreement in the medical community, in which some experts don’t believe any amount of Iodine-131 is safe.

Victoria Binetti with the EPA told the newspaper that although the water company has exceeded federal limits, its still a conservative number. ”It’s a level you don’t want to exceed, but it’s considered safe,” said Binetti.

(For more information about Iodine-131 click on Rock The Capital.)

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