Download the full report

Other Resources:
Press Release | Endorsements (466 signatures) | Letter to EPA from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson | EPA’s Response to Release of IEER Report and IEER’s reply to this letter | Notice of Intent to File Suit for Safe Drinking Water Act Violations | Summary of report in Science for Democratic Action (Vol 13. No. 3)

The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations specify rules that will protect drinking water and will maintain it in a state that is safe to drink. In these regulations, 40 CFR 141.66 sets safe drinking water standards for radionuclides in public water supplies under the Safe Drinking Water Act. These standards are set in two ways: by specifying maximum contaminant levels of drinking water or by specifying maximum allowable dose to the whole body or any organ as a result of ingestion of drinking water. However, as demonstrated below, the concentration limits currently in effect for alpha-emitting transuranic radionuclides in drinking water are grossly inadequate to protect public health. Achievement of reductions in concentration is necessary to protect public health.

The current maximum contaminant level (MCL) as set forth in 40 CFR 141.66(c) for gross alpha particle activity, including radium-226, but excluding uranium and radon, is 15 picocuries per liter. There is a sub-limit for radium-226 and radium-228, combined, of 5 picocuries per liter (including any naturally present radium-226 and radium-228). For instance, if water is contaminated with plutonium-239 alone, the level of contamination could reach as high as 15 picocuries per liter if no other qualifying alpha-emitting radionuclides were present. If radium-226 is present to the maximum allowable limit of 5 picocuries per liter, then the rule allows a maximum contaminant level for gross alpha of 10 picocuries per liter. For instance, if plutonium-239 were the only alpha-emitting, long-lived transuranic radionuclide present, the MCL for plutonium-239 in this case would be 10 to 15 picocuries per liter, depending on the concentration of radium-226.