By Jade Bruhjell
Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the earthquake that set off the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Many mourned the thousands of dead in Japan and there were ceremonies in the Hawaiian Islands also which involved survivors who have evacuated to Hawaii.
Hawaii may not be the best place to evacuate to, however, as we are beginning to receive contaminated ocean plumes and radioactive airborne fallout here. There have been measurements taken by scientists from various institutions, including individuals living here in Hawaii, that show heightened levels of radioactive Fukushima contamination in rainwater, seafood, dairy products and pockets of areas on the land on different islands.
Unfortunately, March 11 also marks the day of another disaster, in a sense, when the Hawaii House of Representatives’ Health Committee killed SB 3049 (“Relating to Radiation Levels”). This bill would have required the State Department of Health to measure and monitor levels of radiation in our food (seafood and dairy products in particular), water (including rainwater, streams, ocean water, the different forms of drinking water), shore debris, silt in drainage ditches, and other suspected areas of contamination.
SB 3049 passed through three senate committees — Health, Energy and Environment, and Ways and Means — with flying colors, thanks to the efforts of their chair and committee members who saw the urgency of passing this bill. All committees were unanimously in favor. There was plenty of public testimony in support, including that of nuclear engineers residing in Hawaii. A DOH speaker even changed their statement to make 100 percent of the testimony in favor of the bill.
The bill then proceeded to the House. It certainly was a shock and disappointment when Rep. Della Au Bellatti, chair of the Health Committee, immediately dropped this bill with no chance for it to be discussed in committee. Our jaws also dropped. They said that there were more important bills to hear.
Hawaii needs this bill given the particularly disturbing measurements taken around the Pacific Northwest, along with observation of the destruction of large amounts of marine animals of all kinds, including the newfound contamination of the vast kelp beds off the California coast. This will destroy the previously prosperous kelp industry. Dr. Daniel Aldrich, of Purdue University, reported that measurements taken on fish near Hawaii were found with elevated levels of cesium.
The Fukushima catastrophe is certainly not over as it continues to further pollute the entire Pacific Ocean day by day. Nuclear engineers at Fukushima admit that the solution to the problem hasn’t been found yet. In other words, they have no idea how to stop this three-year-old ongoing nuclear disaster as massive amounts of different radioactive isotopes spew into the atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean, all headed east in the form of waves of radioactive plumes in ocean currents. As these plumes head straight for California, and the air currents all head east, this radiation is destined to surround the earth.
There is, of course, much more bad news about Fukushima and the other nuclear disasters going off around the planet, but, how does this leave us here in Hawaii, downstream from the most poisonous substances on the planet? There are reports of findings of numerous types of isotopes, including uranium and plutonium, in our rain. There are measurements taken on ahi around Hawaii found with elevated levels of radiation. In 2011, after Fukushima went off, high levels of radiation were found in dairies on the Big Island. They closed operations shortly thereafter.
The provisions of SB 3049 would allow Hawaii residents to know where the contamination is located and how much of each isotope is accumulating. Our government agencies have not told us much, if anything, about any measurements they may have taken. The DOH is not measuring at this time even as the danger of radioactive pollution increases and will probably not slow or decrease in our lifetime or many generations to come.
If we are informed we may have a better chance of moving through this with a minimum of harm. Warning the public about the danger of radiation poisoning is difficult as the process of the poisoning is slow and insidious. The harm being done is not sensed until maybe years later when the mutating cells turn malignant and all of a sudden it is hard to not notice as painful tumors are born. Chernobyl is an example where it has taken 28 years to kill a million people, mostly all from cancer.
We are now in the same situation as before SB 3049, looking for a way to measure and monitor radiation levels on all the islands. We residents may have to take it upon ourselves to measure suspect areas, food and water at the top of the list. Some of us will have to purchase radiation meters or form groups to do so. Some are hoping that the University of Hawaii will step up and conduct some form of measurements.
One thing is for sure, unless we measure we may not know until it is too late.