By Kim Smith
Herald News Staff Writer
GODLEY — Storage tanks containing 100 million picocuries of radioactive tritium on Braidwood nuclear plant properties are a disaster waiting to happen, State’s Attorney James Glasgow said at a community meeting Wednesday night.
“Nuclear plants are supposed to be built to withstand earthquakes. Yet the wind blew down a berm, allowing the 200 gallons of tritium-laced water to spill out of a storage container,” said Glasgow, one of several Will County officials concerned over tritium spills.
The power company Exelon has been using containers on a temporary basis to store contaminated water that once was discharged through a pipe into the Kankakee River. The company stopped that practice after elevated levels of tritium were found in November.
On Tuesday, Exelon reported the spill, but the company maintains that no contaminated waters left its property.
The U.S. environmental Protection Agency has established an upper limit for tritium concentration in drinking water of 20,000 picocuries per liter.
“With the tornado season upon us, I fear for what could happen if a twister grabbed up one of those containers and hurled it at a store full of people,” Glasgow said.
Glasgow said he will be asking for a court order to get Exelon to fulfill a promise to supply bottled water to residents who fear their water is contaminated. He said a good public relations person would have immediately picked up the phone and ordered 20 semi-trucks full of bottled water to the village.
“It is an insult to us that the water is not here,” Glasgow said.
One of the problems Glasgow faces is that county and state officials do not have jurisdiction over nuclear power plants. He urged residents to contact U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Dick Durbin with their concerns over the safety of residents around the Braidwood nuclear plant, which actually is located in Braceville.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a federal agency, is the only entity to which the power plant reports.
Glasgow said his office and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will make a major announcement today in Chicago.
Theodore Hogan, a consultant in the process of being hired as a public health expert by Will County, passed out information on the latest plan the county has come up with for testing drinking wells based on information and concerns gathered by residents on the county Web site. Testing could begin as soon as next week.
“We are using a lab based in Iowa. One of the things we heard was residents did not want to use the same lab used by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency,” Hogan said.
This first phase of testing will include testing for tritium, bacteria and nitrates, Hogan said. A second phase will include testing for diesel fuel.
If residents are not home when the health department comes to their doors, they will be left notes with information on whom to contact. More information on the testing is available at www.willcountyhealth.org .
Some residents questioned whether the Will County Health Department had jurisdiction over Godley homes in Grundy County. Others seemed upset that no Grundy officials attended the meeting.