High levels of radiation detected in Northwest rainwater
A Seattle nuclear watchdog group is accusing the federal government of failing to keep the public informed of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In the days following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the U.S. began monitoring radiation from Japan's leaking nuclear power plants.
Most of the public attention went to the air monitoring which showed little or no radiation coming our way. But things were different on the rain water side.
"The level that was detected on March 24 was 41 times the drinking water standard," said Gerry Pollet from Heart of America Northwest. He reviewed Iodine 131 numbers released by the Environmental Protection Agency last spring.
"Our government said no health levels, no health levels were exceeded.When in fact the rain water in the Northwest is reaching levels 130 times the drinking water standards," said Pollet.
Elevated rain water samples were collected in Portland, Olympia and Boise, which had the highest.
But EPA officials say the data was there for anyone to read on their website. A spokesman sent this statement, in part:
"Since Iodine 131 has a very short half-life of approximately eight days, the levels seen in rainwater were expected to be relatively short in duration."
State health agencies added that they constantly monitored public drinking water sources and never found levels even approaching the unhealthy range.
Even the watchdog group admits, watering plants with water exposed only briefly to those levels is unlikely to cause health problems.
But they say it's information the public deserves to know about.
The EPA points out this was a brief period of elevated radiation in rainwater, and says safe drinking water standards are based on chronic exposure to radiation over a lifetime.