A rumor spreading around the North Fork that higher levels than normal of radiation were detected in Mattituck over the last week has some debunking the myth — and others afraid there is genuine cause for concern.
According to the Turner Radio Network, a website called The Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center "has issued a radiation alert for Mattituck, NY on Long Island after local background radiation levels spiked 156 times higher than normal on March 14, but quickly returned to normal. On March 16, radiation spiked again to 75 times higher than normal and though it has come down, as of the publication of this story on March 18, the level remains 13 times higher than normal," the site reads.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency debunked the rumor, stating that the site was not official and has no official government designation. "U.S. EPA has never heard of netc.com. It is not a government source. We don’t have any validated data that would indicate a cause for concern," said Elias Rodriguez, M.P.A. Public Information Officer for the U.S. EPA said Wednesday in an email.
The site of official EPA data, EPA's RadNet, says it uses RadNet monitors to track fluctuations in gamma radiation emitted from airborne radioactive particles at each of the government's sites. Tracking those changes over time gives a picture of the background (normal) levels and allows EPA scientists to detect any unusual changes. On the EPA's RadNet website, however, no data is listed after Feb. 20., making it impossible to determine if there had been a surge in radioactivity in the Yaphank area, where gamma radiation is monitored.
And that has some on the East End concerned. Karl Grossman, a Sag Harbor author who has written for years on radiation concerns, said the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Connecticut, located across the Long Island Sound from Mattituck, could be the "culprit."
He said that a major base for the building of nuclear submarines exists in Connecticut as well.
Grossman also points to the massive radiation leak after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, following an earthquake. "Gargantuan amounts of radiation are being emitted," he said. Grossman said the EPA stopped doing regular readings after Fukushima. "It's an enormous coverup," he alleged. "And no level of radiation is safe." Radiation exposure, he said, can have long-term effects after a 20 or 40 year period of incubation.
East Hampton resident Priscilla Star, of the Standing for Truth About Radiation Coalition, which has been crying out about alleged concerns over the aging Millstone plant for years, said she has done radioactivity readings with a Geiger counter, a type of particle detector that measures ionizing radiation. She said that readings have been higher "than usual for our area" since work was done at the Millstone plant on March 11, when "the Millstone Station Stack Radmonitor RM-8168 was removed from service for pre-planned maintenance."
"We are citizen monitoring all over the country," she added. "What the EPA doesn't tell us is that we are not just getting 'Fuk-ed,'" after the radiation leak following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, "but getting dosed all the time from our nuclear power plants."
Watermill business owner Andrea Lieberman said she has been taking readings with a Geiger counter for more than two years, and they have ranged in the 20 counts per minute — radiation, she said, is measured by the disintegration of radioactive isotopes — a number that is "relatively low" compared to the rest of the country. But, she added, after last week, when the test was allegedly done at Millstone, those numbers have "hit 41, nearly 50 percent higher," she said. "They took the radiation filter off at Millstone to do some kind of work and for the first time in two years, we have readings in the 40s? This is a big deal."
Diane Screnchi, spokesperson for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, denied that MIllstone could have been to blame for any higher radioactivity readings. "There haven't been any unusual releases from Millstone," she said.
After a request for details from the NETC organization, Harlan Yother, who did not give his title for the group, responded by email: "As I said on Netc.com forum, that problem was an equipment failure for New York. Netc.com does not put out reports or information like what you are quoting."
North Fork environmental advocate Gwynn Schroeder was dubious about the rumor, which some have called a hoax and an internet scam. "The entire thing seems questionable, the monitoring entity is not named, and the radio station that reported it was founded by someone with questionable integrity," she said. "As far as the levels of radiation, I don't have the expertise to answer that, but in general, I am personally concerned about Millstone, especially post Fukushima."
With uncertainty lingering, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell assured an investigation into the matter is ongoing. "We are trying to confirm whether or not this is a real issue. We have reached out to Rep. Tim Bishop and others. It does not seem that any authorities are aware of it. Apparently, this was taken from a news source that has dubious credentials. To be safe, we dispatched three police officers trained in the use of radiation detection devises who are taking readings of the Mattituck area. I am in regular contact with the police chief," he said.
Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley added that the website has no credibility, but obtaining accurate information is difficult. "It appears that this website is not a reliable source for this information that is being released. We have been in contact with various government agencies in an attempt to verify any of this information, and it simply cannot be done. Nonetheless, we are in the process of using equipment at our disposal to ensure none of this information is accurate."
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Diane Screnci's name was misspelled. She works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, not the EPA.