Katie the goat may be Fairfield County's only radiation monitor.
Katie is one of my pet goats at my home in Redding, but she is also part of a science experiment.
I regularly test Katie's milk for radioactivity. I send the milk out to an out-of-state lab certified to analyze concentrations of strontium-90 and strontium-89 and other radioisotopes that nature never intended mother goats to feed their kids.
The results are variable, as is the weather, but the most recent samples tested positive for both strontium-90 and strontum-89.
Fukushima fallout, you may ask?
No, this milk was collected pre-Fukushima — back in September 2010 — and the results lead to an unsettling realization: the food chain out here in pretty Redding is contaminated with radioactivity from a domestic source.
And the source released it in a recent fission event. That we know because the strontium-89 detected in Katie's milk has a short halflife: about 50 days. That means half of its radioactivity decays within 50 days and what's left becomes increasingly difficult and finally impossible to detect.
I'm sorry to report that this isn't the first time Katie's milk has tested positive for radioactivity. And Katie's not the only one. Katie's daughter, Cindy-Lu, whom , unbeknownst to her, was also feeding her kids milk with detectable levels of both strontium-89 and strontium-90, which has a halflife of 30 years.
The presence of strontium-90 from nuclear fallout in milk fed to the consuming public in the 1960s during the peak period of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing ultimately led to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Once President John F. Kennedy was informed that the strontium-90 collects as a potent carcinogen in the bones of teeth of the unborn and young children, including his own, he endorsed the treaty. (Strontium-90 is linked to bone cancer, leukemia and diseases of the immune system.)
Strontium-90 has been detected in milk near Fukushima.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may be monitoring for strontium-90 in milk, but so far no results have been released. The EPA has a single radiation monitor in Connecticut and it's located in Hartford.
These days, I've been collecting Katie's milk and sending it off to the lab once a week. It takes a while for the results to come back.
A jar full of Saturday night's rainfall is being readied for shipment. And the leaves of baby spinach poking up in the winter garden? They are too.
Stay tuned for the results.