EPA Issues Protective Action Guide for Radionuclides

EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water Joel Beauvais Jan. 11 signed a protective action guide (PAG) for drinking water to be used after a radiological incident.  The PAG will be inserted as a chapter in a recently finalized PAG manual for radiological incidents.  The purpose of EPA’s PAG for radiological incidents is to guide the short-term planning and decision-making efforts by local and state officials responding to a radiological emergency. It is not intended for long-term or everyday use.  The proposed PAG does not affect EPA’s drinking water standards for radionuclides.  Therefore, affected public water systems are expected to take actions to return to compliance with drinking water standards after a radiological emergency as soon as practicable.
The final water PAG largely follows what EPA proposed last year, in that a two-tiered approach is used.  The PAG considers that dose levels of 500 millirems/year (mrem/yr) in the first year after an incident for the general population, and 100 mrem/yr in the first year for infants, children age 15 and under, and pregnant or nursing women are protective of health.  Levels above these are to be avoided by providing alternate sources of drinking water.
The controversial numbers included in the final PAG has generated a continuing outcry from environmental groups that charge the guide’s allowable concentrations far exceed SDWA limits and undermine safe drinking water protections.  According to industry media reports, environmentalists are considering litigation to block the PAG.