Radioactive Fish Found in Vermont

A fish taken from the Connecticut River in Vermont tested positive for strontium-90, according to a recent AP report. The fish was caught near the Yankee nuclear power plant. The local department of public health said the very small amount of strontium-90 found in the fish is not a health hazard, and is even  likely to be common in other fish in Vermont and New England. They say the source is from strontium-90 released into the earth’s atmosphere during the testing of atomic weapons decades ago, and from the Chernobyl melt down over twenty years ago. William Irwin, Chief of Radiological Health said, “Even if in edible portions, there is no expected, measurable health risk from the consumption of  fish contaminated from these extremely low, fallout-derived quantities of strontium-90.”

A Vermont nuclear engineer, Bob Gunderson had doubts about the assumed connection between the fish and previous nuclear radiation from bomb tests and Chernobyl. He said if the fish’s radioactivity came from those sources it would also contain cesium-137, but it didn’t. He also would rather see testing for hundreds of fish for strontium-90 rather than the small numbers that were tested.

The Dept. of Health’s own website states the radioactive fish were taken near the nuclear plant: “So far, a small number of fish samples have been taken from the Vernon Pool, (the large pool of the Connecticut River near the discharge  structure at Vermont Yankee formed by the Vernon Dam) and upstream further away from the plant.”

Earlier this year, soil near the plant also tested positive for strontium-90. It was excavated and removed. Further compounding the puzzling situation, is the fact that in January 2010 the plant experienced a leak of tritium from corroded pipes. The tritium leak was discovered after sampling of a groundwater monitoring well. The tritium did leak into the Connecticut River, “Well test results from other groundwater monitoring wells drilled since January show the movement of tritium contamination in the groundwater generally west to east into the  Connecticut River.”

Another radioactive fish was found four miles upstream from the plant. The public health official William Irwin said the strontium-90 couldn’t have come from the plant because the fish was too far away to be contaminated. David Deen, a local river conservationist cast doubt on that comment when he noted that fish can, and do swim many miles: “Deen said four miles was insignificant to any species of fish, noting he had seen studies of the Battenkill that brown trout have moved 16 miles.”

For a situation where the potential for a health hazard is involved, and a hazard to the species of the river ecosystem, its difficult to have such an irresolution, or lack of clarity. Currently we have a somewhat similar situation with the Gulf oil spill. There are more questions than satisfying answers.


Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak7 years ago

If this radioactive contamination was from nuclear testing during the Cold War and the Chernobyl disaster, then all the fish in all the rivers and lakes in all the country would show this same contamination. The contamination is from the nuclear power plant that is on the river.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson7 years ago


jayasri amma
jayasri amma7 years ago

thanks for the info

Jacqueline Baruch

When is the government step in and make our power sources safe for the world. The older nucleaer plants should be updated or closed down.

Sue H.
Sue H7 years ago

Very disturbing news. We all know that the older sites need to either be shut down or made safer for communities, but nothing seems to be getting done. :(

Gena Hummel
Gena Hummel8 years ago

To Hartson D.

That's exactly what I was thinking. It seems to be obvious that the fish would be contaminated from the plant that is right next to them, that had a leak, and not from some other event that happened a long time ago somewhere else.

It's great to have feedback from someone who worked inside these nuclear plants speak out to things that you witnessed.

Quite obviously they think that people have no common sense, and can just cover their butts with some lame excuse. Shame on the public health department.

Hartson Doak
Hartson Doak8 years ago

I was a quality control nuclear inspector. I worked inside three nukes on the East Coast. I live in Hawaii. There are NO commercial nuclear power plants in this state. I have 3000 miles between me and the nearest commercial power plant. These OLD power plants have ALWAYS been dangerous. Now that they are past their original planned life, they are even more dangerous when first put on line. The last plant I worked in was replacing all the piping because they were cracking. That was 30 years ago. That radioactive fish got that way from the power plant, NOT from some distant explosion or accident.

Bon L.
Bon L8 years ago

Thanks for the info.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p8 years ago


Jerry S.
Jerry S.8 years ago

How do you like the fact that while you're trying to shut down the best hope for mankind (nuclear power) based on Ridiculous amounts of radioactivity (smaller than eating a banana, which has natural radioactivity) in a fish, there is millions of barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's oil well? BP is also actively trying to shut down and stop new nuclear power plants, to sell more oil and gas at higher prices!
How do you like it?