EPA Administrator defends agency's drinking water plan in event of nuclear emergency

Gina McCarthy insisted that the nation's water supply will be protected in the aftermath of a nuclear emergency.

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WASHINGTON, DC, NOVEMBER 22, 2016 -- The head of the Environmental Protection Agency spoke to members of the National Press Club yesterday, addressing concerns over drinking water and public safety. Following reports of a new proposal to allow higher levels of radiation in drinking water, Gina McCarthy insisted that the nation's water supply will be protected in the aftermath of a nuclear emergency.

"A lot of this information and this concern came out of Japan in the Fukushima incident," McCarthy said, referencing the 2011 earthquake that triggered a tsunami that damaged the cooling system at a nuclear plant, resulting in the release of radioactive chemicals into surrounding water bodies.

The EPA's most recent Protective Action Guide (PAG 2016) lists three radioactive materials, which, if found to be present in water supplies at maximum levels would require government agencies to provide bottled water or evacuate residents.

NBC Bay Area reports that when the EPA posted its plan for public review it received 67,404 responses, of which all but six were negative.

McCarthy stressed that EPA'S policy concerning new levels for radioactive materials in water would only be used in the case of "an apocalyptic scenario following a nuclear disaster." She also stated that the organization would not be changing its current drinking water standards.

"What we are trying to do is figure out how to actually start transitioning from a case where everybody is in their house and hunkered down, and can't drink drinking water to being able to understand what exposures, in a temporary way, would allow life to continue," she said.

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