FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gina McCarthy and Katie the Goat

by NANCY BURTON

This is the story of Gina McCarthy, newly installed EPA administrator, and her four-legged nemesis, Katie the Goat.

It was a year ago today that Katie the Goat succumbed to an aggressive cancer that invaded the organs in her chest.

Katie’s dread disease attracted notice because for years she had served as the nuclear industry’s poster goat for radiation poisoning. Her goat milk tested super-high for strontium-90, a carcinogen that mimics calcium and invades bones and disrupts the immune system, causing a variety of cancers and leukemia.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Katie grazed in a meadow nestled five miles northeast of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford, Connecticut, a neighborhood riddled with cancer.

Millstone’s owner, Dominion, carried out an environmental sampling program that included Katie. Dominion’s technicians regularly collected Katie’s milk and tested it for traces of radioactivity. Millstone, in common with all nuclear power plants, routinely releases radioactivity to the air and water. The airborne radiation is carried by the wind and precipitates out in the rain, landing on field vegetation and seeping into the groundwater, i.e., Katie’s food and water supply.

In 2001, Dominion’s lab reported it found a concentration of 55 picoCuries per liter of strontium-90 in Katie’s milk. Around the same time, another sample of Katie’s milk tested at 29 picoCuries per liter of strontium-90. Elevated levels of strontium-90, strontium-89, cesium-137 and Iodine-131 were always found in Katie’s milk samples. All are created during nuclear fission and no other way.

The readings were staggeringly high. In fact, 55 picoCuries/liter of strontium-90 was twice the highest level found in cow’s milk sold commercially in Connecticut during the peak of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s; since then, strontium-90 levels have diminished to very low levels, less than 5 picoCuries/liter nationwide.

Neither Dominion nor the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection made any effort to publicize the frightening news about Katie’s milk. (On August 6, 2013, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission revealed that in April Dominion withheld from the NRC the fact that Millstone’s main radiation stack had become inoperable, a violation of federal regulations. The NRC called the breakdown “a major loss of emergency assessment capabilities.”) Activists challenging Dominion’s effort to obtain a 20-year license extension for Millstone discovered the buried data in a search of company records.

Katie, with her two suckling kids in tow, headed to Hartford to meet with the Governor to share her numbers. Katie’s visit to the manicured grounds of the Capitol attracted a huge news media outpouring but the Governor, though a breast cancer survivor, would not meet with her.

Enter Gina McCarthy, then head of Connecticut’s DEP. Pressed by the news media, the Governor reluctantly directed McCarthy to investigate and prepare a report explaining why Katie’s milk had high levels of radioactivity.

In short order, McCarthy released a glitzy report full of expensive graphics – very unlike most reports issued by staid, cash-bound state agencies – and a press release.

McCarthy acknowledged that finding high levels of radioactivity in a goat’s milk in Connecticut was a serious issue. (After all, people drink goat’s milk, too, and cows graze on pastures just like Katie’s. Not to mention that people breathe the air just like Katie and eat vegetables from garden patches and that human children are the biggest milk drinkers of all.)

Facing many uncertainties, McCarthy could render only one conclusion with certainty: Millstone was not the cause of the high levels of radioactivity found in Katie’s milk.

“It is clear from our study that Millstone was not the source of the radioactive materials in the two goat milk samples being questioned,” McCarthy’s press release assured.

Well if it wasn’t Millstone, what was it? McCarthy didn’t venture to say.

Activists trounced on the report; two separate radiation experts dismissed it as junk science and repeatedly asked to meet with the authors of the report to set them straight. McCarthy refused access. DEP has purged the report from its website.

McCarthy’s gift to the nuclear industry – absolving Millstone of any role in contaminating Katie’s milk with radioactivity – paid off. The ambitious bureaucrat, taking care to donate $1,000 to the Obama 2008 election campaign, found herself nominated to head the U.S. EPA’s Air and Radiation Bureau by the new President. At her confirmation hearing, the only time the word “radiation” came up was when the title of her new job was mentioned.

When the Fukushima nuclear reactors began exploding, McCarthy found herself in charge of the EPA’s national network of radiation monitors. Panicked, she sought emailed assurance from an EPA staffer the morning of March 12, 2011:

“I spoke with Lee and she has it together. She indictaed [sic] that at this point there doesn’t seem to be a significant release and she reminded me that the US did not have to take any protective action with Chernoble [sic] – even though that was a much more extreme situation,” McCarthy emailed, misspelling Chernobyl.

A year later, EPA’s internal investigator, the Inspector General, issued a scathing report taking McCarthy down for the abysmal state of her Fukushima air monitoring network: one-fifth of its volunteer-run monitors were broken during the early days of the crisis. As head of EPA’s Air and Radiation Bureau, it was McCarthy’s decision to shut down the air-monitoring system just a few weeks into the crisis, even after it detected Fukushima fallout in the rainwater in Hartford, Connecticut and cow’s milk in Vermont. (Meantime, troubling uncontrolled radiation releases continue today to spew from the Fukushima nuclear site into the air and water, two and a half years after the triple nuclear meltdown.)

McCarthy’s gift to the nuclear industry – creating an information vacuum on Fukushima fallout in the U.S.A., thereby shielding the industry from media and popular outrage – paid off.

McCarthy donated $1,500 to the Obama 2012 campaign. Last March, President Obama nominated McCarthy to head the entire EPA, giving her ultimate oversight over the Bureau of Air and Radiation.

On Fukushima Day, 2012, with just months to live, Katie went on a farewell tour to the White House with her 3-month-old granddaughter, Dana Blue-Eyes, with a request to the First Family to adopt “Dane” as a White House pet and radiation monitor.

“Your offer is extremely generous and seems like a fantastic opportunity, it is truly appreciated,” First Lady Michelle Obama responded through her press office. “Unfortunately, we are unable to satisfy your request. We apologize that we could not be more helpful.”

Sadly, tragically, it is not the interest of the Obama Administration to shine light on the realities and perils of the nuclear industry and its everyday threat to the health and safety of all American families. Organic gardens will not spare them from the hard rain of radiation fallout.

Dana Blue-Eyes has since given birth to Athena; the milk she feeds her baby has been found to be contaminated with strontium. She’s carrying on Katie’s campaign to expose the truth about nuclear power fallout.

Every time President Obama talks about all he’s doing for America’s families, and Gina McCarthy about the global environment she’s concerned about, think of Katie the Goat. Long live Katie the Goat.

Nancy Burton lives in Connecticut.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail