Vermont Yankee: VDH test results show “discrepancy”

by Angela Chagnon

The Vermont Department of Health released their test results August 9th on samples of water taken from the Connecticut River on July 18 and 25. The agency reported that trace amounts of tritium had been found on the river’s shoreline. Governor Shumlin issued a press release August 17, saying he was “very concerned about the latest findings”.

The Governor also made a statement at Thursday’s press conference.

“It’s better that it go into the river than into the water table in Vernon, because that’s where they get their water from,” said Shumlin.

Larry Smith, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee’s Manager of Communications, issued the following statement to employees of the nuclear plant on Thursday:

As part of our ongoing and comprehensive groundwater monitoring program at our Vermont Yankee facility, we test river water samples on a weekly basis. This testing is conducted by our laboratory, by a contracted vendor, and by the Vermont Health Department’s laboratory.

We are aware that results from the Vermont Health Department’s laboratory testing of two samples show a low level of tritium. The levels detected by the State’s laboratory (611 and 534 picocuries per liter from July 18 and 25 samples, respectively) are both just above the very lower limit that could be detected. Results from our laboratory testing of those same samples, however, show levels that are below that same extreme lower limit, otherwise known as below ‘minimum detectable’.

While it is important to note that the levels detected are extremely low, and there is no risk to the environment or public health and safety (the Environmental Protection Agency safety standard for tritium in drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter), we are very interested in working with the State to understand the discrepancy in the test results. As such, we have proposed to the State that we send both our samples and theirs to an independent third party laboratory for an additional round of testing.

In addition, in an effort to get as much information as possible related to this issue and to help determine whether there are any next steps, we have expedited testing results from our laboratory for water samples taken over the past three weeks. We also continue to extract groundwater at the site, as we have done for the past year and half.