Katie’s Life of Anti-Nuclear Activism
Katie’s career as an anti-nuclear activist began when a search of records reported by the owner of the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford CT revealed that the milk Katie donated to Dominion for its environmental radiological sampling program contained exceptionally high concentrations of strontium-90, a carcinogen produced only in nuclear fission. Katie was living five miles northeast of Millstone at the time.
With a concentration of 55 picoCuries/liter in 2001, Katie’s milk contained the highest level of strontium-90 ever detected in the state of Connecticut, perhaps the nation. That number was twice the highest concentration recorded in milk sampled in Connecticut during the peak of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in the 1960s. Most samples of Katie’s milk had elevated levels of strontium-90, as well as strontium-89 and cesium-137. All are potent carcinogens. The strontiums mimic calcium and concentrate in human bones and teeth, disrupting blood cell production and causing leukemia, breast cancer, lung cancer and disorders of the immune system. Developing babies, young children and all females are most vulnerable.
Goat milk is considered the most sensitive indicator of radiological contamination of the environment. Dominion, Millstone’s owner, stopped its own real-time station monitoring for radioactive strontium, relying instead on sampling local goat milk to measure its strontium releases. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted this revision of Dominion’s radiological environmental sampling program.
Using Dominion’s environmental reports, the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone located Katie at her goat farm at 22 Dayton Road in Waterford, 5 miles northeast of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station.
Eventually, the Coalition adopted Katie from her farmer, as he was moving, and Katie moved to East Lyme, the town adjoining Waterford which also fronts Niantic Bay and the Long Island Sound.
After Katie mated with Nubie – a union that produced Cindy-Lu and Joe-Joe – Katie’s milk flowed. As it was sent off to a lab for analysis, Katie and her kids commenced their public campaign to alert the world that a nuclear power plant was poisoning goat milk and human health was at risk..
Katie & Company got ready to hit the road. Six years of adventures were to follow.
Katie’s first stop was the Governor’s office in Hartford, Connecticut. As then-Gov. Jodi Rell had only recently undergone a mastectomy for breast cancer, it was assumed she would warm to the issue of why Katie’s “breast” (i.e., udders) released poisonous rather than pure mother’s milk.
But Gov. Rell scorned Katie and wanted no part of her press conference. Nevertheless, pressed by an insistent news media demanding a response, Rell directed the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to investigate.
It did not take long for the DEP to release a report absolving Dominion of any blame for the radioactive strontium in Katie’s milk. The DEP report failed to offer a credible alternative explanation. Two scientists, one a former Millstone nuclear engineer and the other a professor emeritus of radiation physics, mocked the DEP’s report as junk science and produced scathing analyses of its errors. Both scientists persisted in efforts to meet with the authors of the DEP report to correct its obvious errors, to no avail.
The DEP Commissioner who took responsibility for the report exculpating Dominion was Gina McCarthy. McCarthy would later be catapulted to national power as President Obama’s pick to head U.S. EPA’s Air and Radiation Bureau. She would be Obama’s highest appointed official responsible for radiation protection for all Americans. But the word “radiation” was never uttered during her Senate confirmation hearing other than referencing her new title. Not a single senator asked her about her experience regarding radiation protection. The Fukushima nuclear catastrophe put a focus on the U.S. radiation monitoring program which she directed. One-third of the air radiation monitors under McCarthy’s control were broken at the outset of the catastrophe, according to the EPA’s own internal investigation. The overall air radiation monitoring program was exposed for its absurd inadequacy, but McCarthy stopped EPA’s nationwide monitoring for Fukushima radiation early into the aftermath of the disaster.
Katie’s Hartford press conference won the attention of all the state’s news media, but it did little to upset the cozy relationship between Commissioner McCarthy and her DEP and the corporate owners of the Millstone Nuclear Power Station. And it did nothing to halt Millstone’s routine – daily and continuous – releases of toxic radiation into the environment.
Katie took her message on the road. She had a song to sing and she would sing it loud. She appeared with her kids, Cindy-Lu and Joe-Joe, at the “Clean Beaches” rally at Liberty Park in East Lyme and Hole-in-the-Wall Beach across the Niantic Bay from Millstone. Amidst the banjo playing and drumming and speeches and banners and signs, Katie gamely stood still to be milked during her segment of the program.
Millstone’s radiological waste products are piped to Niantic Bay, an estuary of the Long Island Sound. Niantic Bay is lined with public and private beaches. One of Millstone’s environmental reports admitted a fish its environmental samplers caught in the Bay was contaminated with cesium-137, a potent carcinogen that settles in muscle tissue, causing cancer. The report acknowledged the cesium-137 came from Millstone. That year, a young, unknowing East Lyme mother swam in Niantic Bay in the early months of her pregnancy. Her baby was born with cancer in his jaw. She linked his condition to Millstone and asked the Coalition to post warning signs at the beach identifying all the toxic chemicals and radionuclides Millstone dumps into the Bay. The Coalition prepared the signs and marched with them to the beach at the “Clean Beaches” rally. Later, the First Selectman of East Lyme threatened to have Coalition members arrested for offering to donate the warning signs to the town to post at its public beaches. Instead of posting them at the beach, he locked them away in his closet. (The Coalition also accompanied the young mother and her son to Hartford to meet with state officials to express their concerns about the health effects of Millstone discharges to the Niantic Bay. DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy repeatedly refused to meet with them.)
Katie appeared with a “Got Strontium? sign at the “Millstone Insecurity” rally held at the entranceway to Millstone to support a valiant Millstone whistleblower, Sham Mehta. Dominion fired Mehta in retaliation for exposing to the NRC that Dominion deliberately disabled its perimeter security system to save money, a major breach of national security. The local press suppressed the news until the Coalition helped break the story in the Boston Globe. The Coalition took legal action to help Mehta get his job back.
Katie joined a press conference at an abandoned dairy farm in East Lyme where milk sampled during the 1970s, when Millstone was deliberately operating Unit 1 with defective fuel rods, was heavily contaminated with radiation. Next to Katie was local veterinarian Dr. John Caltabiano, who spoke of the many occasions when he learned of stillbirths and birth defects in livestock and pet populations in the area. Dr. Caltabiano, a deeply caring and gifted man, had resided in the Giants Neck section of East Lyme. He died prematurely of cancer.
When gubernatorial candidates debated at the Garde Arts Theatre in New London, Katie rallied out front against Millstone’s deadly radiation releases. Although the U.S. Department of Homeland Security identified Millstone as Connecticut’s number one terrorist target after 9/11, and the New London region has the state’s highest cancer rates, The New London Day, co-sponsor of the event, kept Millstone out of the debate.
Katie appeared on cable access TV in New London. She occupied a spot on the floor in the studio strewn with hay as the issue of her poisoned milk was aired.
Katie’s travels took her across the state, to New Haven, New Canaan, Mystic, Redding, Easton and Willimantic, where she appeared beside Ralph Nader, longtime anti-nuclear advocate.
All the while, Katie was lactating. With the births of new baby goats, her milk freshened and samples were sent out to an independent lab for radiological analysis. Katie lived in Redding in Fairfield County – 25 miles downwind of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Station – beginning in 2007. In rural Redding, Katie’s milk frequently tested positive for radioactive strontium.
As Katie’s daughter, Cindy-Lu, began having babies and having her milk tested for radioactivity (also testing positive), she followed in Katie’s footsteps. She and her kids became well-known attractions at the Clearwater Festival in Croton NY (where they helped clear the grounds of poison ivy), Pete Seeger’s Strawberry Festival in Beacon NY and the Connecticut Audubon Hawk Fest in Greenwich CT. Cindy-Lu was interviewed live on WBAI radio and she made her unique deep bleating sound into the microphone.
In February 2012, after Katie was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, she began a farewell tour. She returned to the State Capitol in Hartford hoping to meet Governor Dannel Malloy. The Governor scorned Katie, just as his predecessor, Jodi Rell, had done.
On March 11, 2012, Fukushima Day, Katie went to the White House with granddaughter Dana Blue-Eyes (Cindy-Lu’s latest girl named in honor of Judy “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes” Collins for her startling blue eyes). They were on a mission to meet with the First Family with an offer to present Dana Blue-Eyes as a gift to the First Family to be a pet as well as a radiation monitor. Why not? After all, President Abraham Lincoln kept two goats in the White House for the pleasure of his young boys. Through her press office, First Lady Michelle Obama pronounced the idea “fantastic.” However, the First Family declined the gift.
Goats are not allowed to stroll in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but Katie the Goat and Dana Blue-Eyes did just that. To hundreds of astonished passersby, Washingtonians and tourists alike, Katie’s story was told and understood. Katie was saluted for her efforts.
Katie drew the attention of the White House and she affected the hearts and minds of the people.
Katie’s mission was accomplished.
|Katie at Gubernatorial Debate Rally in New London||Katie at New London rally with State Rep. Diana Urban|
|Katie at Millstone Insecurity Rally||Katie at the Clean Beaches rally|