Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tritium Contaminating Our Environment: A Letter Requesting Monitoring For Resident Safety

Majia here: I've posted previously about the work of Capt. Clyde Stagner, Retired. He spent much of his professional life monitoring radiation readings for government agencies. I will post links to his book, Hidden Trituim and my previous discussions of his work at the bottom of this post. 

Below you will find a letter sent by Capt. Stagner to mayors of cities in Maricopa County, AZ concerning the lack of tritium monitoring. 

Tritium contamination is a significant concern given the amount of tritium routinely released by nuclear power plants (see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43475479/ns/us_news-environment/t/radioactive-tritium-leaks-found-us-nuke-sites/#.UAZNT6N0jwk). 

The Palo Verde nuclear power plant is located in the far west of the Phoenix metropolitan area. The wind typically blows from the west to the east, bringing tritium with it. 

Monitoring of tritium in the area stopped after 2010 despite rising levels of detection.

Tritium is hazardous to human health. Harrison and Day describe the biological effects of tritium in their article “Radiation Doses and Risks from Internal Emitters”:

[Excerpted] "low energy beta emissions from tritium (3H) decay have been shown to have RBE (ratio of the absorbed dose) values of up to between 2 and 3 (compared to gammay rays), for in vitro end-points including cell killing, mutation and induction of chromosomal aberrations.[x]

Dear Mayors,
    Tritium is an insidious radioactive isotope of hydrogen which emits a beta particle and has a half life of 12.3 years. In other words, after 12.3 years half the tritium in existence now shall have emitted their beta particles and become another substance, with the remainder of the radioactive tritium existing to repeat the process.

    Tritium usually begins as a gas which combines with oxygen, in the air,to become tritium oxide which is water containing tritium. Over time, available radioactive tritium gas continues to make tritium oxide which  readily becomes a component of precipitation. Tritium, if inhaled, is readily exhaled whereas tritium oxide becomes a hazard with inhalation . Human skin readily absorbs tritium oxide(defined as dermal  absorption) with dose equivalency to inhaled tritium oxide.

    In 1992, the annual rainfall in Phoenix , Az. , was 14.24 inches equal to 1.187 ft. The Arizona Radiation Regulatory Agency, ARRA collected tritium in precipitation for the EPA at their central Phoenix location from 1985 until Dec 2010. A Phoenix annual precipitation average of 133 pCi/L for 1992 is published in the EPA Envirofacts Database. 

     In 2005,monitoring of radioactive isotopes began by ARRA at the monitoring station Phoenix /956 located west of the ARRA central location.. Prevailing winds are from the west eleven months of each year. The ratio, between identical radioactive isotopes measured at both Phoenix monitoring locations, measured a ratio of 82.5+-5.7% measured in the time period 2007 through partial 2011. This isotopic relationship became the basis for considering the Phoenix monitoring station's radioactive measurements as representative, for planning purposes, of the surrounding SROG cities of Phoenix , Glendale , Scottsdale , Tempe and Mesa ,the joint owners of the 91st Av. Wastewater Treatment Plant(WWTP).

    Tritium precipitation  falling into the residential SROG swimming pools , if removed by backwashing( uses the  pools' water) is put into SROG sewage oulets. The tritiated  sewage effluent is transported to the 91s Ave. WWTP. The average residential swimming pool surface is likely to be 15 ft.x 30 ft.(Ref. More Results from Wike answers.com) with an average pool depth of 5.5 ft.. Average pool volume is:

 15 ft. x 30 ft. x 5.5 ft = 2475 cu.ft. = 70092 Liters

 Volume of the 1992 precipitation in the pool is:
         15 ft. x 30 ft. x 1.187 ft.= 534.2 cu. ft. = 15127 Liters

The precipitated tritium in the pool is:
         15127 L x 133pCi/L= 2.012157 x 10^6 pCi

Total volume of water in the pool is:
         70092 L +15127 L= 85219 L

 and the tritium concentration in the pool is:
          (2.012157 x 10^6 pCi) / (8.5219 x 10^4 L) = 23.6pCi/L

in which the family would swim in tritium contaminated water unless the pool had been cleaned by backwashing.
    A  swimming pool constructed in 1985 and not cleaned since, would  contain additional annual tritium concentrations, less  the half life decays since 1985. Individual small tritium doses are not insignificant: the accumulated dose  should be considered including natural background, residential radon doses, and other radioactive isotopes present in air,water,or food. 

  Tritium is also present in dew and cooler water. Uncovered swimming pool tritium concentrations either increase with rainfall over time  or are backwashed into the sewer system and transported to the 91st Ave. #WWTP

    The SROG population in 1992 was 1,737,865. Sixty eight percent of the residents lived in single family housing(REF: About .com Phoenix):

          1737865 x 0.68 = 1181748 family homes of which thirty percent have swimming pools:
          1181748 x 0.30 = 354525 residential swimming pools

Backwashing these pools with deposition into the SROG sewer system as stipulated by the City of Phoenix results in tritium being transported to the 91st WWTP:

           (2.012157 x 10^6 pCi)/pool x 354525 pools = 7.13359 x 10^11 pCi
In 1992, the 91st WWTP was operating at a capacity of 179.25 MGD(Ref:NPDES Permit No. Az 0020524,Page 4):
          179.25 MGD x 365D/yr= 65426 x 10^6 g/yr
          65426 x 10^6 gal x 3.7854 L/gal = 2.476645 x 10^11 L/yr

and the annual tritium concentration, from residential swimming pools. of the sewage effluent discharged from the 91st WWTP outfalls was: 

          (7.13359 X 10^11 pCilyr) /  2.476645 x 10^11 L/yr = 2.88.pCi/L

          This tritium contaminated effluent, except for daily secondary treated quantities piped to PVNGS and an unknown quantity of non liquid fixed tritium in biosolids shipped via SYNAGRO and other possible shipments of biosolids, ultimately ends up in the Salt River  where, on occasion, it is the only water in the Salt River. 

    Additional tritium, from public and semi public swimming pools, is also deposited in the 91st WWTP sewer system,except for swimming pools like the Phoenix Washington Pool which deposits its tritium contaminated backwash on adjacent park foliage. Rainfall events dramatically increase flows in the sewer system(Ref:City of Phoenix Official Website).

          Tritium is not listed in the 91stWWTP FACT SHEET,NPDES Permit No. AZ0020524. Tritium is not listed by ADEQ as a biosolids pollutant. The EPA does not monitor Phoenix 's drinking water for tritium. although many other cities are.

          The Maricopa County Environmental Service Department has jurisdiction over public swimming pools under agreement with the Arizona Department of Health Service and the Department of Environmental Quality.,which in 2002 took charge of the NPDES program under the AZPDES program. Tritium monitoring program is needed in Phoenix.

For the health of your people, Clyde H. Stagner                     

CC: Professor Majia Nadesan, PhoenixWater Service Dept.

Capt. Clyde Stagner's book, Hidden Tritium, can be found at Amazon.com
EPA Censorship and a Failure of Transparency in Government
Hidden Tritium
Environmental Activism

Phoenix Radiation Increases


Bridges, B. A. (2008). Effectiveness of tritium beta particles. Journal of Radiological Protection, 28, 1-3.

Fairlie, I. (2007) RBE and wg values for Auger emitters and low range beta emitters with particular reference to tritium. Journal of Radiological Protection, 27, 157-168.

Harrison, J. D. Khursheed, A., & Lambert, B. (2002). Uncertainties in dose coefficients for intakes of tritiated water and organically bound forms of tritium by members of the public. Radiation Protection Dosim. 98, 299-311.

Straume, T. (1993) Tritium Risk Assessment. Health Physics, 65, 673-682.


  1. Majia, thanks for taking to a higher level.

  2. Te seguimos desde España