One day in the late 1990s, a determined white nanny goat was walking on a rural road in eastern Connecticut not far from Norwich. She was an escapee. No one knows the details.
An ordinary stray goat can find herself transported to a livestock auction and be never heard from again. But something about Katie caused the man who rescued her to adopt her and take good care of her.
Spared by fate, Katie went on to serve an exceptional mission: that of caprine (“goat”) nuclear whistleblower – a truthteller about radiation releases to the environment by the Millstone and Indian Point nuclear power stations. Perhaps Fukushima as well.
Goats, with their four stomachs and unique digestive systems, concentrate radioactivity in their milk, more than other mammals. They are reliable indicators of the presence of radioactivity in the environment. For that reason, they are feared by the nuclear industry, which downplays its routine radiation releases.
Katie took the bullet from the nuclear industry – by ingesting its invisible radiation into her flesh and unwittingly expelling some of it into her babies’ milk. With her radiation-contaminated milk, Katie’s been a beacon alerting the world about the true and hidden dangers of nuclear power.
Once rescued, Katie grazed in a sloping meadow at her new home in Waterford, Connecticut, just five miles north of the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant, in a residential neighborhood. There were grasses, bushes and trees. She devoured everything nature provided and produced babies and goat milk for her babies.
While Katie lived in Waterford, Millstone’s owner, Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., carried out an environmental monitoring program that included sampling milk from local goat farms for radioactivity. (Nearby cow farms had closed by the time Dominion bought Millstone in 2000.)
“The most sensitive indicator of fission product existence in the terrestrial environment is usually milk samples,” Dominion wrote in its 2001 Annual Radiological Operating Report. “Goat milk samples can be a more sensitive indicator of fission products in the terrestrial environment than cow milk samples.”
In fact, goat milk is such a sensitive and reliable indicator of radioactivity in the environment that Millstone discontinued its onsite station monitoring for strontium-90 and strontium-89 using air particulate filters, citing the greater sensitivity of milk samples collected offsite.
“Over the many years of station operation,” Dominion wrote in its 2000 environmental operating report, “Sr-89 has often been released in comparable quantity to Sr-90.”
Some of the goat farms Dominion sampled were closer, some farther away, than Katie’s goat farm, but in 2001 Katie’s milk tested highest of all for strontium-90, strontium-89 and cesium-137, all deadly carcinogens.
It was Katie’s September 19, 2001 sample, with its super-high Sr-90 concentration – 55.5 picoCuries/liter – as revealed by Dominion in an annual report, that catapulted her to a spot on the Connecticut news media’s A-List.
That concentration was twice the highest level of Sr-90 found in milk sold commercially in Connecticut during the peak of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s, according to a graph Dominion published in its 2001 report and confirmed by radiation physicist Dr. Ernest Sternglass.
(President Kennedy’s realization that fallout from the 1960s nuclear weapons testing program was settling in the baby teeth and bones of his and the nation’s own young citizens led to cessation of the U.S. atmospheric testing program.)
That Katie’s milk had 55.5 picoCuries/liter of strontium-90 was alarming. Other sample results were also cause for concern, given that Sr-90 concentrations in milk had steadily declined to less than 4 picoCuries/liter since reaching a peak of 24 in 1963. For example, other of Katie’s sample results reported by Dominion were: June 24, 1999 – 8.5; September 16, 1999 – 17.0; June 28, 2000 – 11.0; September 26, 2000 – 44.4; June 29, 2001 – 13.2; June 19, 2002 – 5.80.
Equally – or more – alarming was Dominion’s 2002 report of high concentrations of strontium-89 in Katie’s milk: 8.6 picoCuries/liter on June 19, 2002 and 6.4 on August 21, 2002. On the seven other occasions in 2002 when Dominion sampled Katie’s milk, it neglected to perform strontium-90 or strontium-89 analysis. Dominion gave this as its excuse for failing to provide a strontium analysis for the October 9, 2002 sample: “Strontium analysis not performed due to lab error.” No explanation is given for the absence of strontium analysis on the six other occasions when it was not performed..
Sr-90 has a half-life of 30 years. That means it loses half its energy due to radioactive decay in 30 years and it is readily detected for decades.
Sr-89 is different. It has a half-life of only 50 days. Beyond 50 days, it is very difficult to detect.
Dominion analyzed Katie’s milk on a quarterly basis for strontium. That means that strontium-89 concentrations collected at the early and middle parts of the quarter would have substantially diminished by the time the lab began to analyze the results and the delay may have affected and minimized the results.
The presence of Sr-89 in Katie’s milk is a strong and likely indicator that it was released in a recent fission event nearby, most likely from Millstone, five miles upwind.
Sr-89 is so potent that it is used in final-stage bone cancer care for palliative pain relief. Its use for medical purposes is tightly controlled because it is so very hazardous to living cells, particularly bone-producing cells. Its ingestion is linked to leukemia and immune diseases as well as cancers.
In 2006, Katie the Goat traveled to Hartford to tell the Governor, Jodi Rell, a breast cancer patient who had undergone a mastectomy recently, about how her milk was contaminated with radioactivity.
The Governor refused to meet with her.
But news media representatives pressed Governor Rell for a response and Rell finally released a statement that she would have her Commissioner of Environmental Protection look into the issue.
That would be Regina (“Gina”) McCarthy, appointed in 2004.
On March 28, 2006, McCarthy released a statement to the news media declaring that the radioactivity poisoning Katie’s milk did not come from Millstone.
“It is clear from our study that Millstone was not the source of the radioactive materials in the goat milk samples being questioned,“ McCarthy’s statement read.
Dr. Sternglass and a former Millstone nuclear engineer both dismissed DEP’s report as “junk science.”
No action was taken by the State of Connecticut to investigate the high levels of strontium-90 and strontium-89 in Katie’s milk.
(Three years later, on March 12, 2009, President Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to serve as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for air and radiation. She was confirmed by the Senate. The position is the top civilian protector of the public from airborne radiation.)
Katie took her message all across the state of Connecticut, appearing with Ralph Nader, as a guest on cable-access TV, at rallies, Town Halls, political debates and voting stations.
Katie has continued her service as a nuclear radiation monitor since her move to Redding, Connecticut, in 2004. Redding is about 30 miles downwind of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Station located in Buchanan, New York. Indian Point has no milk sampling program.
In Redding, Katie’s milk has consistently tested positive for radioactive strontium.
In February 2012, Katie herself was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in her muscle tissue. Exposure to radiation is a risk factor for that type of cancer.
Stalwart Katie went again to the State Capitol in Hartford to meet with Governor Dannel Malloy to inform him of her grim health prognosis and remind him how her milk has consistently tested positive for radioactivity. Governor Malloy refused to meet Katie the Goat or consider the issues she tried to bring to his attention.
On March 11, 2012, Katie went to the White House to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama. The First Lady declined to meet Katie the Goat.
Back in Redding, Katie the Goat is still producing milk samples which are being tested for radioactivity as she struggles to keep her cancer at bay.
July 4, 2012