Radiation from the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan is now showing up in rain in Massachusetts, health officials announced today.
The state Department of Public Health said low levels of radiation were detected in Bay State rainwater earlier this week. Massachusetts now joins scores of other states from the west to the east reporting higher than normal signs of contamination, all likely from Japan.
The DPH said the radiation — in the form of radioiodine-131– does not pose a health threat to Bay State residents and that the air and public drinking water supplies have tested clean. Radioiodine is a byproduct of nuclear fission and has a half-life of about eight days.
Still, health officials said they will continue to test drinking water supplies. The positive rainwater reading was spotted this week and announced today around noon after confirmation of the findings, officials said.
“The drinking water supply in Massachusetts is unaffected by this short-term, slight elevation in radiation. However, we will carefully monitor the drinking water as we exercise an abundance of caution,” said DPH Commissioner John Auerbach.
Other similar radiation hits have been found in California, Washington and Pennsylvania, according to the DPH. All those positive readings are part of the nation’s RadNet radioactive monitoring system.
The Las Vegas’ Atomic Testing Museum this week also reported detecting low levels of radiation, the Associated Press is reporting this afternoon. Positive readings have also been made in Colorado and Hawaii.
The news comes as courageous Japanese nuclear plant workers desperately try to keep the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors from falling into a complete meltdown following an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami March 11. Reports out of Japan today tell of workers being evacuated from one turbine building at the plant due to a spike in radioactivity, only to be told hours later it was a false reading.
Seawater near the plant has elevated signs of radioactivity and officials are saying it could take months to stop the constant radioactive contamination of the environment.
To date, 17 Japanese nuclear plant workers have been exposed to high levels of radiation with two hospitalized, according to reports out of Japan. The country is also warning about infants drinking tap water in Tokyo and produce near the plant — especially spinach and milk — is said to be contaminated.
In Massachusetts, DPH officials said today raw drinking water samples were taken from the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs last week as part of an expanded monitoring system by the MWRA. Those reservoirs supply Greater Boston with its daily drinking water and all tests were negative.
“The initial result of DPH tests on water samples from the Quabbin and Wachusetts Reservoirs – the source of drinking water for 2.5 million Massachusetts residents – is good news,” said state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr., who chairs the board of the MWRA. “In an abundance of caution, however, MassDEP is sampling additional areas today so that we can be confident that water bodies across the Commonwealth have not been impacted by the nuclear incident in Japan.”