PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia Water Department is attempting to track down the source of radioactive iodine found by federal authorities in the drinking water supply drawn from the Schuylkill River.

Chris Crockett of the Philadelphia Water Department says there’s no cause for panic over the discovery by the US Environmental Protection Agency of elevated levels of iodine-131.  He notes that hospitals and pharmaceutical comapnies upriver are among the potential sources of the radioactivity.

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“The water is safe to drink for the public, and people should continue to drink the water and use it as normal without any changes,” he says.

Crockett says the water samples were actually collected last summer, months before the events in Japan, so there isn’t a connection to the nuclear events there.

And he says that when the water department received the government’s lab test results earlier this month, it took immediate action at treatment facilities, especially the Queen Lane plant in East Falls, where levels were the highest of 69 test sites in the country.

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“We’ve also enhanced our treatment by adding carbon to the water treatment process to help provide additional removal of the iodine-131,” Crockett says.

While common sources of iodine-131 are related to nuclear reactors or weapons, Crockett says it’s also used by hospitals to treat patients with thyroid illnesses.

He says the city is working with federal and state authorities to track down the source.

Reported by Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio 1060

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