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Inletkeeper to test Cook Inlet water for Fukushima radiation

Posted: July 1, 2014 - 8:50pm  |  Updated: July 1, 2014 - 8:54pm

In an effort to answer lingering questions about the effects of Japan’s failed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a nonprofit organization has launched a crowdsourced funding project to test water in the lower Cook Inlet for radiation.

Cook Inletkeeper, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, launched a CrowdRise project to raise $3,000 for the testing efforts primarily to allay fears that local water and seafood could be contaminated, said Cook Inletkeeper executive director Bob Shavelson.

So far, the organization has raised about $600 toward its goal, via the online funding website.

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls and we’re very concerned about a lot of hyperbole and misinformation on the internet,” Shavelson said.

The false information could be damaging to the fishing industry in Alaska both for consumers and producers.

“We recognize how important safe seafood and clean water are to Alaskans, not only for personal consumption, but also marketability,” Shavelson said.

The Federal Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for monitoring the nation’s food supply, has yet to find evidence of radioactive contamination in U.S. food supplies at levels that would be a public health issues, according to a March update on the organization’s website.

In addition, recent tests of Alaska’s seafood have shown that it is safe to consume, according to a joint Friday media release issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health and Social Services.

Samples were collected from the Aleutian Islands and Bering Sea over to Southeast Alaska and were found to contain none of the Fukushima-related radioactive isotopes, although researchers did find background radiation in the samples, according to the release.

“We’re sampling water, the FDA is sampling fish so it’s a complementary sampling regime,” Shavelson said.

The tests in Cook Inlet will be performed by the Wood’s Hole Center for Marine and Environmental Radioactivity, part of the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The organization measures bulk seawater samples as well as fish and kelp to get information on how much radiation a person or marine animal could be exposed to by eating the contaminated organism, according to its website.

Shavelson said each test should cost about $600, but the organization asked for about $400 more than that, per test, to cover the cost of getting boats into the water and shipping samples.

“Everything we raise here would go back into the testing process,” he said.

After Cook Inletkeeper sends the sample for testing, it will post the results at inletkeeper.org.

“I don’t anticipate that we’re going to find any problems,” Shavelson said.

The organization will work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration using its maps of the Kachemak Bay area to determine where to test, Shavelson said.

“Our goal is to do three tests,” Shavelson said. “Hopefully as the summer goes on, people will throw a couple of dollars at the effort.”

 

Rashah McChesney can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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