Testing confirms northern island still free of radiation contamination

  • Mar. 16, 2015 10:00 a.m.

By Quinn BenderHaida Gwaii ObserverOngoing monitoring of radiation levels around Old Massett since the meltdown of a Japanese nuclear reactor in 2011 have once again indicated islanders have no current cause for alarm.Since the catastrophic Fukishima disaster, Old Massett’s economic development officer, John Disney, has been monitoring atmospheric radiation levels in 10-second intervals on a 24-hour basis. Last month a radiation testing program in Prince Rupert caused a mild stir in local media over renewed radiation concerns. However, in addition to atmospheric testing, Disney has also recently sampled rain and ocean water, plus razor clams, butter clams and various debris brought to him by the public, each item of which failed to produce radiation readings that don’t already occur naturally on the earth’s surface.”In fact,” he said, “The average reading from the station here in Old Massett is running at about a third the global average. By this I mean that my readings are several orders of magnitude below any kind of danger level.”Disney presented his findings to village council during the last regular meeting.”You know, you read about elevated readings of [radiation] detected in the Lower Mainland, well then immediately Facebook starts up and everyone gets worried. But they fail to tell you that the levels went from extremely low to a little bit less than extremely low. And that’s still a million miles away from any danger level.”Disney embarked on his amateur testing program as far back as the 1980s, when a similar concern arose from Russia’s Chernobyl meltdown. “The health authority said there was no reason for concern, but then I heard from a woman who had her own water tested and the numbers were over the acceptable limit-they were through the roof. I collected my own rainwater at the time, so for the safety of my family I began testing it,” he says. “That experience taught me not to always believe the authorities, because they want to tell you everything is fine. When Disney started testing for Fukushima impacts, he did so for the immediate benefit of his community. Since then, he says, his data has earned the trust of citizens and community leaders all along the west coast from Oregon through to Alaska.Disney sends his samples for testing to a private facility in Saskatchewan. In Old Massett his office is furnished with a geiger counter and monitoring station for atmospheric testing. In the three years since firing up his monitoring station, his data shows radiation levels have only come to brush against the danger level, but dropped again before it became a concern. Disney welcomes anyone to bring in a small piece of debris or samples of food products for testing if they are concerned about contamination.

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