Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) Public Health Lab (PHL) is releasing the first in a series of testing results for Strontium-90 (Sr-90) in fish from New Hampshire. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts are conducting the testing in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Winchester Engineering and Analytical Center (WEAC) laboratory. The testing study is to address concerns about Sr-90 following the tritium leak at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in January of 2010.
The first sampling of NH fish took place in May at Hermit Lake in Sanbornton. All of the 17 samples of largemouth bass were well below the FDA level of concern for consumption. Both edible (flesh) and inedible (bones, head, scales, guts) portions are being tested as part of the study. An additional sampling of New Hampshire fish was taken in September from fishing derbies where fish were collected at weigh stations. The derbies included Lake Winnipesaukee (Meredith and Center Harbor), Squam Lake (Holderness), Pleasant Lake (Deerfield), Pawtuckaway Lake (Nottingham), Opechee Lake (Laconia) Northwood Lake (Northwood), and the Connecticut River (Hinsdale), and the Nashua River (Nashua). The final sampling will be completed in May of 2013.
"This collaboration is extremely beneficial to us as our radiochemistry lab scientists in the lab will have the opportunity to be trained in methods at WEAC,” said NH PHL Director Dr. Christine Bean. “We will then be able to implement those methods in our laboratory.”
Sr-90 is a radioactive isotope that is commonly part of fallout from atmospheric nuclear bomb testing and the Chernobyl incident. The vast majority of this radionuclide comes from weapons testing and fallout has resulted in Sr-90 becoming part of what is known as the background environment of radionuclides.
In 2010, the State of Vermont collected and tested a fish that was caught approximately 8 miles upstream from the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. The fish was found to have a slightly elevated level of Sr-90, although the level was below the FDA safe limit for fish consumption. This was when the three states recognized the need to define the environmental levels of Sr-90 in fish. A multi-state project is under way to evaluate these background levels in fish found in freshwater bodies in Northern New England that are not connected to the Connecticut River and therefore are not part of a water body that passes by a nuclear power plant. Knowing these background levels will help allow states to compare any future findings with levels that are expected.