The nuclear crisis in Japan has prompted many U.S. counties to conduct water and air tests in order to detect raised radioactive levels, with two states testing positive.
Pennsylvania and Massachusetts residents were notified over the past week of higher than normal levels of the radioactive isotope Iodine-131 in rainwater.
Gov. Tom Corbett of PA announced that small amounts of the isotope were found but that levels were still “25 times below levels considered dangerous to humans and animals” (http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/03/pennsylvanias_governor_says_th.html). Furthermore, samples from drinking water in six different regions were conducted and found to be free from radioactive elements, the site notes.
The same goes for Massachusetts, who reported low levels of Iodine-131 and no affects to their drinking water, as they continue to monitor the situation.
Why is it that traces are found in rainwater but not in drinking water? The simple answer is the process that rainwater goes through before becoming drinking water. As pennlive.com explains, “Rainwater is filtered as it seeps into the ground, diluted as it enters streams and is further treated at public water facilities.”
Other states, such as New Jersey and Maryland, have not detected any Iodine-131 in their rainwater as of yet, leading some to question if the traces found in PA and MA are not fully due to Japan but instead the location of the samples.
PA is being attacked with arguments stemming from the Marcellus drilling process, believing that the radioactive element Radium-226 from waste resulting from the gas wells are being released into streams (http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/03/pennsylvanias_governor_says_th.html). Although PA has detected Iodine-131 in its rainwater, there are arguments that the same tests should be conducted for Radium-226 as well. Corbett refused to comment on the Marcellus situation.
Others are claiming that the higher than normal levels found in MA rainwater are due to the “close proximity to the Vermont Yankee and Plymouth Pilgrim nuclear power plants,” in which case it would be understandable that a small amount of radioactive elements be found (http://www.wwlp.com/dpp/news/politics/Low-level-radiation-found-in-rain-water).
Do you think PA and MA should worry about the slightly higher levels of Iodine-131 in their rainwater, even though it is still classified as being below the “dangerous” level?