The Three Mile Island nuclear accident freaked people out. The vast majority of radiation leaked was tritium, which at the time wasn't studied all that well. Thanks to law suits, lawyers for residents tested every thing they could find and government agencies had to test all the areas tested again. The biggest find was naturally occurring radium and radon gas. No one had ever thought to check for radon gas, seriously at least, so the great Radon scare was born. After lots of years of research, there is no evidence of any health issue related to the TMI accident, there was however evidence that tritium or something else may have lead to a slightly lower cancer rate in the area impacted.
Now we have a new TMI like example of searching for one thing and finding something else. Duke Power in North Carolina has a coal fly ash dam burst leading to some clean up and testing of water wells in the area. Test showed higher than allowed levels of Chromium and higher than expected levels of Vanadium. However, the tests did not show other metals that should have been present if the source were the coal fly ash.
Duke Energy made a convincing case for the situation and the North Carolina DEQ lifted a drinking ban on the wells and established a level of 20 PPB for Vanadium which is slightly lower than the 21 PPB recommended a bit halfheartedly by the EPA. Halfheartedly because while Vanadium might be a problem, it also might be an essential mineral/element. The jury appears to be still out on that point.
Chromium VI is well known since Erin Brockovitch and there was Chromium present in the tests, but Chromium both 3 and 6 can occur natural in North Carolina's mineral rich aquifers. Vanadium also is naturally occurring and until early 2000s there wasn't a test available to measure Vanadium levels below 30 PPB.
Of course the kill coal crowd who likes to use the clean water act to kill coal is up in arms about NC
allowing" Dirty Duke to get away with murdering innocent North Carolinian's with highly toxic waters.
Oregon, which has no coal resources to speak of and only one coal fired power plant also tests ground water since the CWA and during a 2011 survey noted levels of Vanadium in ground water just below the 30 PPB limit of previous test accuracy. Oregon also didn't have a Vanadium limit but noted their levels exceeded Arizona's which does have a limit.
Add to this the discovery of Arsenic at very low levels in water and foods which required the developing of newer more sensitive tests for the field and you have a crisis of super sensitive testing proportions. I doubt anyone really has a clue if any of these levels are good, bad or just ugly reality.
Precautionary types have grown popular of zero tolerance which is fine if you can't measure all that small a concentration, but when parts per trillion are easy, just about everything is contaminated. There is no such thing as zero to begin with, so zero tolerance is a bit of a joke anyway.
Now if I were younger and in my prime, I could test about anything you like and pick up good scare cash. Scare and remediation is a lucrative business. Right now the Green's are more into scare and decimate. Not as lucrative, but you get a warm feeling. Green activists even have a bible or sorts online explaining how to use the CWA to kill pipelines, coal, big sugar and of course big oil. They are really doing well with the exception of Steven Donziger who foolishly allowed a documentary film crew to film his lying ass.
Politics aside, the new insight on just how contaminated our little planet is, is interesting. Historically, humans with the best immune systems win, and these new higher sensitivity tests could allow some verification of linear no threshold models used with wild abandon by the green and anti set.
In any case, the local epidemiologist for NC has resigned in protest on the governor's complete dis regard of public health and safety. Fun times.