[ RadSafe ] RadSafe Digest, Vol 723, Issue 1

Brennan, Mike (DOH) Mike.Brennan at DOH.WA.GOV
Tue Aug 23 17:01:34 CDT 2011

Some years ago I was invited to comment on a draft report a multi-agency
work group had written addressing radioactive material and waste water
treatment (I forget the actual name of the report, or who all was
involved, but EPA and NRC were represented).  The draft concluded that
because of possible exposure, there should be regulations about disposal
to the sewer, including a requirement for every waste water treatment
plant to have samples analyzed for rad (I believe semi-annually was

The report stated that the majority of "radioactive waste" that was
being disposed of to the sewer was medical, with much of that passing
through patients (many of them outpatients), first. I pointed out that
having the people collect their wastes to return them to the hospital
for disposal (one of the suggestions) not only exposed the patient and
their families to MORE radiation, by keeping the stuff around rather
than sending it off through a heavily shielded removal system, but
increased the possible exposure to pathogens, a far worse risk.  I also
pointed out that the "pathway of concern", the treatment plant worker
ingestion pathway, was not only less probable than they assumed, but an
insult to the intelligence and professionalism of treatment plant
workers everywhere.  I pointed out that treatment plant workers strive
not to get the material in their mouths, that if it does get in their
mouths they don't swallow, and if they did they didn't do it at the rate
of grams per day.  On top of that, with the risk from pathogens, organic
toxins, and heavy metals, they should live so long as to have rad be a
major risk.  

The final report concluded that there was no viable exposure pathway
that was a risk, and there was no need for routine monitoring, unless
there was a known abnormally large source (such as a lab doing work with
radioactive material).  I assume that I was not the only reviewer that
spotted the problem, but it did provide some satisfaction.   

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of Fredrick L.
Sent: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 11:39 AM
To: radsafe at agni.phys.iit.edu; jjc105 at yahoo.com
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] RadSafe Digest, Vol 723, Issue 1

P.s. For my next trick I'll try to explain why radioactive waste
disposal to the sewer is allowable in nearly every jurisdiction in
America except the ones serving the national laboratories.  Then I'll
explain simple things like time, gravity, and the opposite
sex......well, perhaps not the opposite sex.  I'm only human.

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