FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gina McCarthy and Katie the Goat

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:

Nancy Burton is a former reporter for The Associated Press in New York City. She frequently writes on environmental topics.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail