Radiation Levels in Northwest Rain Were Up to 131 Times Drinking Water
Standards Following Fukushima, Japan nuclear reactor explosions
For release: July 7, 2011
Gerry Pollet, JD, Exec. Director
Heart of America Northwest “The public’s voice for Hanford Cleanup”
(206)382-1014 / (206)819-9015 cell
Radiation Levels in Rain in WA and OR were high enough to be of concern despite
news reports and officials stating that levels were “below any level of public
health concern.” Olympia rainwater had Iodine 131 at levels 41 times the federal
Drinking Water Standard, Portland over 28 times the standard.
Boise, ID levels reached 131 times the Drinking Water Standard – indicating
higher levels fell in Oregon and Washington.
Analysis by Heart of America Northwest:
Radiation levels in rainwater collected in Portland, OR on March 25, 2011 were 86.8 pCi/L for Iodine 131
(I131), amongst the highest recorded in the US after Fukushima. Rain in Olympia had even higher levels
of radioactive Iodine. The Portland result was not posted by EPA until April 4.
The maximum level of Iodine 131in rain in Olympia, WA was 125 pCi/L on March 24, which was not
posted by EPA until April 4.
Highest levels in rainwater in California were collected March 22, 2011 in Richmond, CA with levels of
The Drinking Water Standard is just 3 pCi/L (picoCuries per Liter, which is a very small measurement).
Thus, people drinking undiluted rainwater n Portland would have consumed and been exposed to Iodine
131 at levels nearly 30 times the DWS, and 41 times the standard in Olympia. There are no results for
Seattle or Bellingham areas. The DWS is set at a level based on drinking 2L/day resulting in a 4 mrem per
year dose, which is a 1 in 10,000 lifetime risk of fatal cancer in adults, if consumed daily over 30 years.
Children are 3 to 10 times more susceptible to develop cancer from the same does, especially because
Iodine concentrates in young thyroids. Of course, Iodine 131 may cause non-cancerous health
If the rain in Richmond, CA had high levels on March 22, one might expect that EPA would have been
testing the same day or as close as possible at Pacific Northwest locations that day. However, locations
only test once a week or once a month without apparent coordination related to the event, e.g., without
apparent increased testing based on weather patterns from Japan and daily events, such as explosions
The highest levels of Iodine 131 in rain were collected in Boise, Idaho on March 27 and March 22, 2011
with levels of 390 and 242, respectively.
A high level reported by EPA was 150 pCi/L collected in Jacksonville, FL on March 31. This shows how far
and wide the contamination can, and did, spread. It also reveals that claims and news reports were false
in presenting that the 8 day half-life of Iodine 131 (half of the radiation remains) meant that
contamination would not reach across the US. If levels of 150 were in rain in Jacksonville, the levels were
much higher days earlier on the West Coast.
If levels of 390 reached Boise, 130 times the Drinking Water Standard, the same clouds likely dropped
precipitation at levels 50% higher in Oregon and Washington before reaching Boise.
There were no samples collected and reported in Oregon and WA in the days immediately prior to the
Boise collection of a sample with 242 pCi/L on March 22nd. Portland had only two precipitation samples
reported during this entire period, the second on April 20, with all results “non-detects”. These results
were not posted by EPA until May 24.
While there are numerous results collected at Oak Ridge, home of USDOE’s Oak Ridge National Lab, it
appears that USDOE’s Hanford site and Pacific NW National Lab were not part of EPA’s collection
program – despite claims of extensive radiological monitoring at Hanford.
EPA refuses to make public who is collecting data samples for its RadNet program, preventing
independent review of accuracy and raising concern that the choices as to sampling may be biased, and
leaving numerous questions such as why some collection stations were only collecting monthly even at
the height of the crisis (e.g., Portland).
EPA’s announcement that it was returning to “routine” sampling implied that there was across the
board increased sampling from mid-March to May3, 2011. However, a review of the posted sampling
results show many locations, such as Portland, OR, did not increase precipitation sampling from once a
month during the crisis.
EPA’s May 3 Statement:
“After a thorough data review showing declining radiation levels related to the Japanese nuclear
incident, EPA has returned to the routine RadNet sampling and analysis process for
precipitation, drinking water and milk.
“As always, EPA's RadNet system of more than 100 stationary monitors will continue to provide
EPA scientists near-real-time data on the slightest fluctuations in background radiation levels….
“It is important to note that all of the radiation levels detected by RadNet monitors and
sampling have been very low, are well below any level of public health concern, and continue to
decrease over time. EPA continues to work with federal partners to monitor the situation in
Japan and stands prepared to accelerate radiation sampling and analysis if the need arises. Data
will continue to be available on EPA's public website.”
Heart of America Northwest’s review shows that EPA’s claim of “near real-time data” is belied by EPA
taking a week to post data. In the event of another explosion releasing radioactive particles and gases,
the serious week long gap in time between collection of results and posting could prevent a proper
public health advisory and response. By taking a week to post results, the public is deprived of the ability
to make its own choices in time to make a difference.
All data from EPA: http://www.epa.gov/japan2011/rert/radnet...-data.html