All bottled up


“I found this bottle Saturday at Fort Stevens (near South Jetty). It clearly came from Japan,” Astorian Jennifer Nightingale wrote. “Many friends suggested that I check it for radioactivty. As we don’t have a Geiger counter in our tool box, how should we get such things checked out?” The bottle is pictured, and it still contains some clear liquid.

The first call was to the Coast Guard’s local Marine Environmental Response office. Nope, they don’t have a Geiger counter, but suggested a call to Fort Stevens State Park. But Park Ranger John Koch at Fort Stevens said they don’t have one, either, and he recommended calling Ken Murphy, who is also a park ranger.

“Oregon State Parks has a program in conjunction with Oregon Health Authority that includes the testing of ocean water, sand and adjacent tap water sources up and down the coast for any trace amounts of radiation that may have made it to our shores,” Ken wrote. “As an agency, we have also used Geiger counters on ‘suspicious debris’ for a number of years to make sure we were not receiving radioactive material from the Fukushima reactor, or any other sources.

“After years of this debris testing, no instances of radiation have been found, so we have largely discontinued the practice of using Geiger counters (except for very specific instances). At this time we have also found no trace of radiation in any of our water or sand sample testing, which is an ongoing practice on the Oregon Coast … (At) this point the greatest likelihood (99.99 percent) is that this is debris that came to our shores by way of one of the hundreds of vessels that enter the Columbia River from Asian origins.”

So there you have it. There’s no need to worry about debris you find on the beach being contaminated with radiation, folks. Looks like the real problem, here, is shipboard littering.

— Elleda Wilson

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