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:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail