MORRIS – The search for a tritium leak at the Dresden Generating Station in Morris entered its third day Monday.
Evidence of a leak turned up Saturday when environmental officials identified tritiated water in one of the Morris facility’s water storage tanks.
As of Monday, the tritium contamination was contained to on-site water only, meaning drinking water and surrounding waterways are tritium-free. Exelon officials notified state and federal regulatory offices of the leak Sunday.
“We’re working around the clock right now to pinpoint the source of this leak,” Dresden site communications manager Bob Osgood said Monday.
The station’s last tritium leak was in 2009.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, drinking tritiated water could lead to cancer as the radioactive liquid goes directly into soft tissues and organs.
A radioactive isotope, tritium occurs naturally in the environment in very low concentrations but also is a byproduct of nuclear reactors. People are exposed to microscopic amounts of tritium daily, however, prolonged exposure can increase the risk of cancer.
The EPA claims tritium is “one of the least dangerous radionuclide” as it emits very low energy radiation and leaves the body relatively quickly – usually in about one month’s time.
Osgood assured local residents their water was safe since the leak has been contained on-site. He added that Dresden employees were not at risk and could safely continue their work.
“This poses no negative impact to the public or to our employees,” Osgood said.
Tritium was discovered Saturday at Dresden’s waste water treatment facility where water from the plant is cleaned, disinfected and discharged into the Kankakee River.
According to a news release sent Sunday, Dresden has 83 environmental monitoring wells and an environmental team constantly observing water quality.
Several crews are working to excavate the area around the tank, find the location of the leak and make repairs before the leak does further damage.
“We are keeping our commitment to and are firm believers in sharing new tritium findings with the public,” Dresden site vice president Shane Marik said in the release.
In 2010, tritium contamination was the root of a lawsuit filed against Exelon by the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s Office.
According to information from the Attorney General, the offices alleged water pollution exceeded groundwater standards beginning in 2001 at the Dresden Nuclear Generating Station. The pollution was said to have stayed on the Dresden facility, not affecting private water wells.
A settlement was reached and Dresden paid $137,000 to several local and state conservation agencies.