Technical Fact Sheet: Final Rule for (Non-

Radon) Radionuclides  in Drinking Water

                                                   EPA 815-F-00-013 November 2000

1. What are we announcing?
EPA is promulgating the final drinking water standards for (non-radon) radionuclides in drinking
water: combined radium-226/-228, (adjusted) gross alpha, beta particle and photon radioactivity,
and uranium. This promulgation consists of revisions to the 1976 rule, as proposed in 1991.

2. What are the requirements of this final rule?
Community water systems (CWSs), which are water systems that serve at least 15 service
connections or 25 residents regularly year round, are required to meet the final MCLs and to
meet the requirements for monitoring and reporting.

Non-transient, non-community water systems (NTNCWSs) will not be regulated at this time.
EPA will further consider this matter and may propose to regulate radionuclides at these systems
in the future. NTNCWSs are public water systems that are not a CWS and serve at least 25 of the
same people more than 6 months per year (e.g., schools and nursing homes).

The final rule requires that all new monitoring be conducted at each entry point to the
distribution system under a schedule designed to be consistent with the Standardized Monitoring
Framework.

3. How soon after publishing the final rule will the changes take effect?
The rule will become effective on December 8, 2003, three years after the publication date
(December 7, 2000). New monitoring requirements will be phased-in between that date and the
beginning of the next Standardized Monitoring Framework period, December 31, 2007. "Phased-
in monitoring" refers to the fact that States will require some fraction of water systems to
complete their initial monitoring requirements each year of the period between the effective date
(December 8, 2003) and the beginning of the new cycle (December 31, 2007). Water systems
will determine initial compliance under the new monitoring requirements using the average of
four quarterly samples or, at state discretion, using appropriate grandfathered data. Compliance
will be determined immediately based on the annual average of the quarterly samples for that
fraction of systems required by the state to monitor in any given year or based on the results from
the grandfathered data. Water systems with existing radionuclides monitoring data demonstrating
that the system is out of compliance with new provisions will be out of compliance on the
effective date of December 8, 2003. Water systems with existing data that demonstrates non-
compliance with the current (1976) rule are currently in violation of the radionuclides National
Primary Drinking Water Regulations.

4. Why is this rule significant?
This rule promulgates new monitoring provisions that will ensure that all customers of
community water systems will receive water that meets the Maximum Contaminant Levels for

-------
radionuclides in drinking water. Under the 1976 rule, water systems with multiple entry points to
the distribution system were not required to test at every entry point, but rather to test at a
"representative point to the distribution system." While the 1976 requirement did ensure that the
"average customer" was protected, it did not ensure that all customers were protected. Under the
new rule, all entry points will be tested and all CWS customers will be ensured of receiving
water that meets the MCLs for radionuclides in drinking water. In addition, this requirement is
more consistent with the monitoring requirements for other comparable drinking water
contaminants.

This rule promulgates a new standard for uranium in drinking water, which will result in reduced
uranium exposures for 620,000 persons. The uranium standard, which is required by the Safe
Drinking Water Act, will protect drinking water customers from uranium levels that may cause
toxic effects to the kidney and will reduce cancer risk. In addition, the new rule promulgates
separate monitoring requirements for radium-228, which is expected to result in reduced
exposure to 420,000 persons. This monitoring correction is based on sound science and is
necessary for ensuring compliance with the combined radium-226/-228 standard.

5. What health effects are associated with exposure to radionuclides from drinking water?
Exposure to radionuclides from drinking water results in the increased risk of cancer. The
radioactive particles (alpha, beta and gamma particles) emitted by radionuclides are called
"ionizing radiation" because they ionize ("destabilize") nearby atoms as they travel through a cell
or other material. In living tissue, this ionization process can damage chromosomes  or other parts
of the cell. This cellular damage can lead to the death of the cell or to unnatural reproduction of
the cell. When a cell reproduces uncontrollably, it becomes a cancer. Certain  elements
accumulate in specific organs: radium (like calcium) accumulates in the bones and iodine
accumulates in the thyroid.

For uranium, we must consider not only the carcinogenic health effects from its radioactive
decay and the decay of its daughter products ("radiotoxicity"), but also damage to the kidneys
from exposure to the uranium itself ("chemical toxicity"). Exposure to elevated uranium levels in
drinking water has been shown to lead to changes in kidney function that are indicators of
potential future kidney failure.

6. What are the sources of radionuclides in water?
Most drinking water sources have very low levels of radioactive contaminants "radionuclides"),
levels low enough not to be considered a public health concern. Of the radionuclides that have
been observed to occur in drinking water sources, most are naturally occurring. However,
contamination of drinking water sources by anthropogenic ("human-made") nuclear materials
also occurs. Naturally occurring radionuclides are found in the Earth's crust and are  created in the
upper atmosphere.  For example, trace amounts of long-lived isotopes (e.g., uranium-238, which
has a half-life of almost five billion years) have been present in earth's crust since the crust first
formed. As these long-lived trace radionuclides decay, shorter-lived ("more radioactive")
daughter products are  formed. Of particular concern are naturally occurring uranium and the
naturally occurring radium isotopes, radium-226 and radium-228, which have been observed to
accumulate to levels of concern in drinking water sources.

-------
Most of the naturally occurring radionuclides are alpha particle emitters (e.g., the uranium
isotopes and radium-226), but naturally occurring beta particle emitters do occur (e.g., radium-
228 and potassium-40). Certain rock types contain trace amounts of the radioactive isotopes of
uranium,  thorium, and/or actinium. As these parent rocks weather, the resulting clays and other
aquifer-forming materials may become a source of naturally-occurring radionuclides to drinking
water sources. Other naturally occurring radionuclides include tritium, a beta particle emitter,
which forms in the upper atmosphere through interactions between cosmic rays (nuclear particles
coming from outer space) and the gases comprising the atmosphere. Tritium can be deposited
from the atmosphere onto surface waters via rain or snow and can accumulate in ground water
via seepage. Tritium is also formed from human activities, as described below. Natural tritium
tends not to occur at levels of concern, but contamination from human activities can result in
relatively high levels.

The man-made radionuclides, which are primarily  beta and photon emitters, are produced by any
of a number activities that involve the use of concentrated radioactive materials. These
radioactive materials are used in various ways in the production of electricity, nuclear weapons,
nuclear medicines used in therapy and diagnosis, and various commercial products (such as
televisions or smoke detectors), as well as in various academic and government research
activities. Release of man-made radionuclides to the environment, which may include drinking
water sources, are primarily the result of improper waste storage, leaks, or transportation
accidents.

7. How many people and how many systems will be affected  by this rule?
Higher levels of radionuclides tend to be found more in ground water sources than in surface
water sources, like rivers and lakes.  While most water systems do not have detectable
radionuclide activities, there are some areas of the  country that have levels significantly higher
than the national average levels. For example, some areas of the midwest have elevated radium-
226 levels and some western  states have elevated uranium levels compared to the rest of the
United States. Separate monitoring for radium is expected to result in roughly half of one percent
of the nation's 54,000 CWSs needing to take measures to lower radium in their drinking water.
The uranium standard is expected to result in slightly less than one percent of CWSs needing to
take measures to reduce uranium in their drinking water. Table 1 below shows the estimated
number of CWSs that would be affected by this rule and the estimated population served by
these water systems.

     Table  1. Estimates of the Community Water Systems That Would Need to Mitigate
              Contaminant Levels and the Population Served by These CWSs
       Regulatory Action         Number of CWSs Affected  Total Population Served
Radium-228 Monitoring Correction           -300                 ~ 420 thousand
     Uranium MCL of 30 |ig/L                -500                 - 620 thousand

8. How much will this rule cost?
Over 96% of the cost of this final rule is expected to come from the mitigation of radionuclide
levels through treatment, purchasing water, developing alternate water sources, and other

-------
compliance measures. Table 2 below shows the total annualized costs of mitigation, monitoring,
reporting, recordkeeping, and administration for this rule.

 Table 2. Total National Annualized Costs of the Radionuclides Rule (Mitigation, monitoring,
                       reporting, recordkeeping, and administration)
                            T>   i  4.    A  *                                 Annual
                            Regulatory Action                                ^   ,
                               B      J                                       Costs
Radium-228 Monitoring Correction, Mitigation Costs                              ~ $ 26
                                                                             million
Uranium MCL of 30 |ig/L, Mitigation Costs                                      ~ $ 50
                                                                             million
New Monitoring, Reporting, Recordingkeeping, and Administration Costs for all  ~ $ 5 million
Radionuclides

       For systems that need to take corrective action to comply with the new rule, the annual
       costs per system will range from $9,000 annually for the smallest community water
       systems to over $150,000 annually for systems serving 3,300 to 10,000, and over
       $500,000 annually for larger systems.
       For the small percentage of households that are served by water systems that will be
       required to take corrective actions because of this rule, it is estimated that households
       served by typical large water systems will experience increased water bills of less than
       $30 per year and that households  served by typical small water systems (those serving
       10,000 persons or fewer) will experience increased water bills of $50 - $100 per year.
       Costs will vary depending on the  system size.

9. What are the benefits of this rule?

       The requirement for separate radium-228 monitoring is expected to result in the
       avoidance of 0.4 cancer cases per year, with estimated monetized health effects benefits
       of $ 2 million annually. Water mitigation for radium also tends to reduce iron and
       manganese levels and hardness, which also has significant associated benefits.
       The kidney toxicity benefits for the uranium standard can not be quantified because
       limitations in existing health effects models at levels near the MCL. In addition to these
       non-quantified kidney toxicity benefits,  0.8 cancer cases per year are expected to be
       avoided, with estimated monetized cancer health effects benefits of $ 3 million annually.
       Water mitigation for uranium also removes other contaminants, which has associated
       benefits.

10. Is there funding associated with this rule?
Since 1996, the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund has made over $3.6 billion available
for loans to help water systems improve their infrastructure. This program has now made over
1000 loans. EPA also provides funding to states that have primary  enforcement responsibility for
their drinking water programs through the Public Water Systems Supervision (PWSS) grants
program. Other federal funds are available through Housing and Urban Development's

-------
Community Development Block Grant Program, and the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.

11. How did EPA consult with stakeholders?
In 1997, EPA conducted a public meeting regarding the finalization of portions of the 1991
radionuclides proposal. This meeting was advertised in the Federal Register. During the
meeting, we discussed a range of regulation development issues with the stakeholders, including
the statutory requirements, court stipulated agreement, MCLs for each of the radionuclides, the
current and proposed monitoring frameworks, and new scientific information regarding health
effects, occurrence, analytical methods, and treatment technologies. The presentations generated
useful discussion and provided us feedback regarding technical issues, stakeholder concerns and
possible regulatory options.  Participants in the stakeholder meeting included representatives
from water utilities, environmental and citizens groups, State drinking water programs and health
departments, other federal agencies, and other groups.

In addition, during the regulation development process, we gave presentations on the
radionuclides regulation at various professional conferences, meetings between State programs
and EPA Regions, the American Water Works Association's Technical Advisory Workgroup
(TAW), and at Tribal meetings in Nevada, Alaska, and California.  Finally, we held a one-day
meeting with associations that represent State,  county, and local government elected officials on
May 30, 2000 and discussed five upcoming drinking water regulations, including radionuclides.

Stakeholders were also asked to comment on a variety of issues in  the April 21, 2000 Notice of
Data Availability. We utilized the feedback received from the  stakeholders during all these
meetings and comments from the NODA in developing the final radionuclides rule.

12. Where can the public get more information about the final  radionuclides rule?
For general information on radionuclides in drinking water,  contact the Safe Drinking Water
Hotline, at (800) 426-4791,  or visit the EPA Safewater web  site at  or the radionuclides web site.

-------