OUR OPINION: Transparency needed in contaminated power plant water issue

We don’t anticipate three-eyed fish in Stinson Creek or glasses of water in our homes that can double as nightlights. But we do have some concerns and could put our minds at ease with a bit more transparency.

On July 31, Ameren Missouri reported elevated levels of tritium and Cobalt-60 that exceed EPA drinking limits in water tested near the Callaway Energy Center’s cooling tower.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the governmental body that oversees the nation’s nuclear power plants, said the contaminated water is contained to the plant’s property in Reform and does not pose a threat to drinking water or water off site.

That’s a relief. But we want more than a statement by the NRC.

The Fulton Sun prodded the NRC, Ameren and Missouri Department of Natural Resources for evidence that this issue does not pose a risk to off-site water.

We printed the results of questions in an article on Page 1 of the Aug. 17 edition (‘Ameren: Contaminated water contained on site’).

When asked if Ameren has tested off-site water, a spokesman for Ameren responded that the Callaway Energy Center takes quarterly samples at various wells on and off plant property. The next sample is scheduled for later this month. We look forward to those results, but that doesn’t seem helpful if there is a problem now.

When asked about water quality, DNR referred us to the NRC as DNR does not have authority over power plants. Agreed. But DNR is responsible for water quality off site and has the resources to help monitor such water.

No one at the Fulton Sun has a degree in hydrology or geology. Admittedly, we’re a bit stumped when trying to analyze water table and watershed maps. We’re trained in journalism. That’s why we’re asking the questions. We expected a bit more out of the answers we received. We need clear answers that are understandable to our staff — thus understandable to our readers.

All we’re asking for is more transparency — clearer answers and evidence — in the method, timing and locations of the water testing. We need to know the risks and methods of control.

We understand the need for security and trade secrets involved in nuclear power plants. But by the same token, we deserve the satisfaction of safety.

More transparency will give of peace of mind and ensure safety — before it’s too late.

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