Corbett cares about radioactive water -- but only from Japan


Tom Corbett, space cadet and now governor, returned from his undisclosed planet today to reassure Pennsylvanians that their drinking water is safe -- from the minute amount of radiation reaching here from the crippled nuclear plants in Japan.

The large amounts of radioactive water that gets dumped into sewage treatment plants that sit on major Pennsylvania waterways that are also sources of local drinking water?

Eh. Who really knows?

Here's the so-far press-shy Corbett making a big show that he's on top of the "crisis" of trace amounts of radioactivity, presumably from Japan, that's been found in rainwater monitors located at our own Pennsylvania nuclear plants:

On Friday, concentrations of Iodine-131, likely originating from the events at Japan's damaged nuclear plants, were found in rainwater samples collected from Pennsylvania's nuclear power plant facilities....

As a result of the findings, Corbett immediately ordered the Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Water Quality, Radiation Protection and Laboratories to test the drinking water from six regions in the state.

Yes, Corbett's on top of it:

Corbett emphasized that the drinking water is safe and there is no cause for health concerns. State officials will continue to carefully monitor the situation, Corbett said, and will keep the public informed.

"Rainwater is not typically directly consumed,'' Corbett said. "However, people might get alarmed by making what would be an inappropriate connection from rainwater to drinking water. By testing the drinking water, we can assure people that the water is safe.''

The funny thing that I don't recall a peep from Corbett about this:

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways.

But the E.P.A. has not intervened. In fact, federal and state regulators are allowing most sewage treatment plants that accept drilling waste not to test for radioactivity. And most drinking-water intake plants downstream from those sewage treatment plants in Pennsylvania, with the blessing of regulators, have not tested for radioactivity since before 2006, even though the drilling boom began in 2008.

In other words, there is no way of guaranteeing that the drinking water taken in by all these plants is safe.

In the aftermath of that New York Times report, several Pittsburgh-area utilities raced out to perform that testing that regulators weren't doing, and then federal officials finally ventured forth and did some testing of their own. Those tests didn't find radioactivity near sources of drinking water, which is good.

However, a) the tests had flaws:

The Times found that samples taken by the state in the Monongahela River — a source of drinking water for parts of Pittsburgh — came from a point upstream from the two sewage treatment plants on that river. The state has said those plants are still accepting significant quantities of drilling waste.

Because that sampling site is upstream, the discharges from those two plants are not captured by the state’s monitoring plans.

And b) just because your tap water's not radioactive doesn't mean that its safe:

Unlike radiation, which so far has shown up at scary levels only in Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing wastewater sampling done at wellheads, the spike in salty bromides in Western Pennsylvania's rivers and creeks has already put some public water suppliers into violation of federal safe drinking water standards.

Others, like the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, haven't exceeded those limits but have been pushed up against them. Some have had to change the way they treat water.

But somehow bromides in your drinking water, or the ongoing risks of deliberate dumping of radioactive water, aren't as sexy as the threat of radioactivity of Japan which is unlikely to be more than a routine chest X-ray. Also, Japanese nuclear plants didn't give more than $800,000 to Corbett's campaign, that way that natural gas drillers did.

The hypocrisy of politicians like Tom Corbett is just sickening. Of course, Corbett might have an ulterior motive for reminding people about an accident at a nuclear power plant -- since nuclear power is a threat to Corbett's warped fantasy of turning Pennsylvania into the Texas-fried fracking capital of the world.