Since 1985, Oregon Radiation Protection Services (RPS) has collaborated with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) RadNet program to monitor air, precipitation and drinking water samples in Portland. Air samples are collected twice a week; precipitation is collected once a month; and drinking water is collected quarterly. These samples are analyzed locally by RPS staff prior to shipping them to the EPA in Montgomery, Alabama.
After the 2011 Japan tsunami and earthquake, Oregon Public Health (OPH) and RPS started actively monitoring ocean water and drinking water from three locations along the Oregon Coast. These locations are representative of the northern, central and southern coastal areas. This coastal environmental monitoring was suspended in September 2011 because there were no findings above naturally occurring background radiation levels.
Beginning in April 2012, in light of the potential landfall of Japan Tsunami marine debris along the Oregon coast, Oregon Public Health (OPH) and Radiation Protection Services (RPS) began enhanced sampling of surf water, sand from the high tide line and drinking water from three locations along the Oregon coast. In March 2013, RPS performed a scientific review of 12 months worth of data collected from the samples. The review of the data continues to show that it is highly unlikely that Japan tsunami marine debris presents a radiation public health risk.
The consensus among scientists is that it’s highly unlikely that any tsunami debris from Japan is radioactive. The tsunami created debris from a large stretch of Japan’s coast, but the leak from the damaged reactors occurred in one place. The leak of contaminated water from the reactor started days to weeks after the tsunami debris had washed out to sea. By the time the radioactive water leak developed, the debris was already in the ocean, miles away from the reactor.
Based on the review of the data collected to date, effective April 2013, RPS has changed it sampling protocol to quarterly. RPS will continue to work with the Beach Rangers and the Department of Parks and Recreation to collect samples and will continue to post the results on our website. If RPS does identify an increase of activity from any of the collected samples, it will increase the sampling frequency to ensure the safety of our beaches and the health of the citizens of the state of Oregon.