Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Schuylkill River, 1st alert, contaminated mine water. 2nd alert, traces of radioactive cobalt, Co-60, in sediment samples, aquatic vegetation, & fish

Last night, Gene Krack, Phoenixville Borough Manager, informed Council and the public of DEP findings from ongoing field investigations along Schuykill River including Phoenixville.

The following synopsis is from a Department of Environmental Protection memo presented below my comments.

The UniTech Services Group, Inc. facility in Royersford, Montgomery County, is an international company that performs laundry and small equipment decontamination for various nuclear utilities and other facilities that use radioactive materials in the US and Canada.

In 2004, UniTech, with permits issued by DEP and the Basin Commission, began to discharge effluent to the Schuylkill River after being treated by an onsite treatment plant prior to discharge.

During the summer of 2008, DEP initiated a field investigation to learn more about the possible re-concentration of the facility's radionuclides in the river and its ecosystem.

Again, to varying degrees, trace amounts of Co-60 were detected in the sediment samples, aquatic vegetation and the fish.


Cobalt 60.

Radiation.

From the CDC website:

http://www.bt.cdc.gov/radiation/isotopes/cobalt.asp

Radioisotope Brief: Cobalt-60 (Co-60)

How can it hurt me?

Because it decays by gamma radiation, external exposure to large sources of Co-60 can cause skin burns, acute radiation sickness, or death. Most Co-60 that is ingested is excreted in the feces; however, a small amount is absorbed by the liver, kidneys, and bones. Co-60 absorbed by the liver, kidneys, or bone tissue can cause cancer because of exposure to the gamma radiation.

For more information about Co-60, see the Public Health Statement by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles, or visit the Environmental Protection Agency at http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/cobalt.htm.

Keep in mind, 1 3/4 million people along the Schuylkill depend on the river as their primary source for water.

As previously noted on this blog http://karenjohns4phoenixvilleboroughcouncil.blogspot.com/2009/01/i-need-your-attention-for-five.html water from Wadesville mine is pumped back into the Schuylkill River after it is used at the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant.

Exelon is currently requesting permission to pump even more water from other mine pools during the low flow season. The contention on this issue surrounds the safety of the water with the projected higher levels of manganese and iron. A DEP hearing will be scheduled to address this issue possibly during the summer.

Where do we go from here?

*****

UniTech Discharges to the Schuylkill River

The UniTech Services Group, Inc. facility in Royersford, Montgomery County, is an international company that performs laundry and small equipment decontamination for various nuclear utilities and other facilities that use radioactive materials in the US and Canada. This incoming material includes protective gear such as coveralls, boots, masks and gloves worn by workers who have been exposed to radioactive materials.

Until 2004, UniTech sent its wastewater to the Royersford wastewater treatment plant. Analysis of solids that had accumulated in sludges and reed beds at the Royersford wastewater treatment plant indicated that although discharged wastewater from UniTech met its regulatory limits for radionuclides, trace amounts of radioactive material in the liquid effluents can become concentrated over time.

In 2004, the UniTech discontinued its direct discharge of wastewater from the laundry to the Royersford Borough Wastewater Treatment Plant, and instead, with permits issued by DEP and the Basin Commission, began to discharge effluent to the Schuylkill River after being treated by an onsite treatment plant prior to discharge.

In March 2008, Pennsylvania became a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Agreement State, and DEP's Bureau of Radiation Protection assumed licensing and inspection responsibilities for Pennsylvania facilities such as UniTech. During the summer of 2008, DEP initiated a field investigation to learn more about the possible re-concentration of the facility's radionuclides in the river and its ecosystem.

After meeting with management representatives of UniTech in August 2008, DEP's Bureau of Radiation Protection conducted sampling of river water and sediment near the UniTech discharge point. Laboratory analysis showed that radioactive cobalt-60 (Co-60)and smaller amounts of other radioactive materials were found in the sediments, with the highest concentrations near the outfall.

Throughout October and November, as well as early December 2008, the investigation was expanded to better understand the extent of contamination and the potential for human exposure.

In addition to river water and sediment, aquatic vegetation and fish were analyzed. Again, to varying degrees, trace amounts of Co-60 were detected in the sediment samples, aquatic vegetation and the fish.

Beginning in December 2008, DEP extended the investigation to the nearest downstream water supplier, the PA American plant in Phoenixville. This investigation is ongoing and is being coordinated with UniTech.

Although the effluent that is discharged from the facility has been consistently reported by UniTech as being within permitted radionuclide limits, through very sensitive laboratory measurement techniques, radioactive material has been found in sediment, plant and aquatic life.

Through the use of our best available technologies for sampling, modeling and risk assessment, DEP's radiation protection experts have concluded that the radioactive materials that originated from the UniTech effluent exist in quantities that do not present a threat to human health or safety.

2 comments:

Karen said...

More information on the UniTech laundry published in the Mercury in 2004.

Hot Laundry on the Line

POTTSTOWN, Penn. — A wastewater treatment plant in Royersford, Pennsylvania, has been treating radioactively contaminated
water from a nuclear laundry facility.

The contaminated water is from UniTech Services, which cleans clothing worn by workers at Exelon Nuclear’s Limerick Generation station.

The Royersford facility, designed to treat domestic sewage, has been releasing the treated, “clean” water into the Schuylkill River, and storing the remaining radioactive sludge.

The waste matter is contaminated with cobalt-60, which releases
gamma radiation and can cause cancer and other health problems.

As the sludge accumulated so did the cobalt-60.

The sludge was then sent on to the nearby Pottstown water treatment station, where it was further “de-watered” and finally sent on to the Bucks County landfill. Upon delivery to the landfill, radiation alarms alerted operators to the danger.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) debated over who was responsible
for the radioactive sludge. In the end, the DEP ordered the landfill to bury the toxic sludge.

The Pottstown water treatment facility was convinced to de-water the remaining radioactive sludge at the facility as well as an additional 400,000 gallons sitting in a tank at the Royersford plant.

The section of sewer line that runs from UniTech to Royersford will need to be cleaned and decontaminated, as will the tanks that hold the sludge.

Meanwhile, the nuclear laundry facility has constructed it's own wastewater treatment facility on site and has been permitted by the DEP to discharge its waste matter directly into the Schuylkill River.

— Pottstown Mercury, April 22, 2004; Norristown

http://www.nukewatch.com/quarterly/20042summer/20042page3.pdf
*****

ObaMike said...

Do Excelon employees drink this crap?