Investigative Journalism that is as
Radical as Reality Itself.

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.

July 07, 2015
ANDRE VLTCHEK
In Ecuador, Fight for Mankind; In Greece, Fight for Greece!
Nile Bowie
Obama’s Pacific Trade Deal Trails Behind China’s Development Vision
Binoy Kampmark
Warrior Economist: the Varoufakis Legacy
Shamus Cooke
Unions Must Act Now to Survive Supreme Court Deathblow
Dave Lindorff
The Greek People Have Voted ‘No!’ to Austerity and Economic Blackmail
Mateo Pimentel
The Pope’s Letter: Neoliberalism and Fukushima
Raouf Halaby
Beware Those Who Speak With Forked Tongues
Ron Jacobs
The Grateful Dead: The Ship of the Sun Bids Farewell
Jonathan Cook
Hasbara Industry: Why Israel’s Army of Spin-Doctors is Doomed to Defeat
Rev. William Alberts
Charleston: a Reality Check on Racism in America
Ellen Brown
A Franciscan Alternative: the People’s Pope and a People’s Bank?
Colin Todhunter
The Warped World of the GMO Lobbyist
John Wight
Who Will Join With Greece?
W. T. Whitney
Colombia’s Fensuagro Union is Revolutionary, Persecuted, and Undaunted
Mel Gurtov
Keep It in the Ground, Obama
July 06, 2015
MICHAEL HUDSON
Greece Rejects the Troika
Steve Hendricks
Will FIFA’s World Cup Sexism Ever Die?
Binoy Kampmark
Oxi in Greece
Gareth Porter
How US Spin on Access to Iranian Sites has Distorted the Issue
Peter Bach
ISIL and Ramadan in the Rag
Paul Craig Roberts
A Rebuke to EU-Imposed Austerity
Robert Hunziker
Looking Inside Fukushima Prefecture
Quincy Saul
The View from Mount Olympus
ADRIENNE PINE, RICHARD JOHNSTON, FIONA WILMOT, et al.
Seven Reasons to Scrap the USA’s $1 Billion Aid Package to Central America
Norman Pollack
Capitalism’s Self-Revealing Practices
Joan Roelofs
Whatever Happened to Eastern European Communism?
David Macaray
Could Justice Scalia Be the One to Rescue Labor?
Linn Washington Jr.
Storm Smashes Chris Christie’s Presidential Candidacy
Benjamin Willis
US and Cuba: What Remains to be Done?
Robert David Steele
The National Military Strategy: Dishonest Platitudes
Weekend Edition
July 3-5, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Pentagon’s “2015 Strategy” For Ruling the World
Jason Hirthler
Going Off-Script in St. Petersburg
Rob Urie
Greece and Global Class War
DIMITRIS KONSTANTAKOPOULOS
The Future of Greece Without Illusions
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Ecuador Fights for Survival – Against its Elites
David Rosen
White Skin Crisis
Jerry Lembcke
Nobody Spat on American GIs!
Stavros Mavroudeas
The Greek Referendum and the Tasks of the Left
Richard Pithouse
Charleston (It’s Not Over)
Arun Gupta
What Does It Mean to Call Dylann Roof a “Terrorist”?
Michael Welton
The Tragedy of Harper’s Canada
Andrew Levine
Dumping on Dixie Again
Brendan McQuade
The Right Wing Resurgence and the Problem of Terrorism
Chris Floyd
Heritage and Hokum in Rebel Banner Row
Victor Rodriguez
Puerto Rico’s Economic and Fiscal Crisis: Made in the U.S.A.