Brenner talks tritium

PICKERING - April 03, 2008

Pickering agrees to reinstate its 1994 position on tritium levels in Ontario drinking water

Now is the time to raise the bar on community safety regarding the levels of tritium in Ontario's drinking water, says Maurice Brenner.

Mr. Brenner attended the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council's (ODWAC) public consultation meeting last week on Ontario's Drinking Water Quality Standard for Tritium. The ODWAC will report its findings to the Ontario Minister of the Environment.

"While some continue to debate that there is no conclusive evidence to suggest risk to community health, tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen," he said. He added the United States Environmental Protection Agency has classified tritium as a human carcinogen.

Tritium is produced naturally in the atmosphere and hits the ground and lake water through rain, but less than one per cent of tritium occurs naturally. A human-made source of tritium includes nuclear reactors used for producing electricity. The current Canada and Ontario standard for drinking water is 7,000 becquerels per litre, whereas the United States' limit is 740 Bq/L.

"Clearly our standard is one of the worst," he said.

Mr. Brenner spoke at a Pickering council meeting the night before his presentation to ODWAC about a 1994 recommendation wherein he and other community groups advised the Ontario Advisory Committee on Environmental Standards to reduce the accepted level for tritium, which at the time was 40,000 Bq/L. Mr. Brenner suggested it be reduced to 20 Bq/L and council agreed.

Last week, council agreed that the 1994 resolution should be forwarded to ODWAC in order to reconfirm council's position on the tritium issue.

Ward 2 City Councillor Doug Dickerson referred to a copy of a letter from Ontario Power Generation's director of nuclear public affairs, Jacquie McInnes, to show OPG emits low levels of tritium.

"Nuclear stations are one of the industries whose operations release very small amounts of tritium unto the environment," she wrote. She later added health is the OPG's top priority and it would not operate if there was a health concern for the public.

Ms. McInnes further noted OPG has committed to an internal target of 100 Bq/L and said "tritium releases from our operations are much lower, with annual averages in the five to seven Bq/L range, as tested at the local water treatment plants."

The ODWAC has consulted with the OPG on its current research.

Mr. Brenner said he's not criticizing OPG, and said he's "not suggesting for a moment we're in a crisis," but, he said there are things that can be done to prevent the potential risk.

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