Low Levels of Contamination Detected in Vermont

Special precautions advised for residents of northwestern Addison County, western Rutland County, and northwestern Bennington

*** THIS IS AN EXERCISE: THIS IS NOT A REAL EVENT. ***

For Immediate Release:
June 1, 2009 • 9:00 a.m.

Media Contact:
Communication Office
802-863-7281
healthvermont.gov

Burlington, VT – U.S. Department of Energy aircraft with special radiation detection instruments have been flying over New York and Vermont over the past 20 hours, and have mapped contamination resulting from two “dirty bombs” or radiological dispersal devices (RDDs) that exploded in downtown Albany, New York yesterday morning.

The maps show the highest levels of contamination in the New York counties of Albany and Rensselaer, and far lower amounts – near normal or background levels – across the border in Vermont.

The actual radioactive materials that were released in the blasts are now also known. One of the bombs was made with cesium-137, which gives off high energy gamma radiation that is easy to detect. The other bomb was made with americium-241, which gives off low energy gamma radiation – but high energy alpha radiation that is much harder to detect and requires specialized instruments.

Environmental Sampling in Vermont

Radiological experts in Vermont have the specialized instruments, and are gathering environmental samples and taking measurements now in western areas of the state. Samples are being taken to the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory in Burlington for analysis. Results will be used to determine if precautionary actions will be needed in certain areas of the state, which may include restricting access.

Teams made up of experts from the Agency of Agriculture, Agency of Natural Resources and the Department of Health are collecting samples of natural and cultivated vegetation, water, milk, foods and animal feeds for analysis at the Health Department Laboratory. The laboratory analysis will help determine if certain foods need to be kept from the marketplace, or isolated to prevent consumption.

Because a large area of the state may have been contaminated with low levels of cesium-137 and americium-241,Vermont officials have called for help from experts from other New England states and federal agencies. Many of these additional resources are arriving in Vermont today. All will work together over the coming days and weeks in an extensive campaign to ensure that products from Vermont may be used or consumed safely. This work will be managed by radiological health experts and coordinated through Health Operations Center located at the Health Department offices in Burlington.

Precautions for People in Rutland, Bennington & Addison Counties

Although very low levels of contamination may be detected throughout Vermont, portions of three counties are expected to be affected the most: western Rutland County, northwestern Bennington County and southwestern Addison County.

Samples will be taken by Vermont teams to determine the extent of contamination in the area. The Health Department will generate maps to help determine if what areas has been affected.

Residents in these areas are not likely to be harmed by the low levels of contamination, but health officials are recommending special precautions to minimize additional risk.

In general, people in the area are advised to avoid eating food or food products that were out in the open and may have been contaminated:

For those in the affected areas, continue to wash hands often, take daily showers and take shoes off before coming inside.

If you were in the Albany, New York area at the time of the blasts, call the Health Department at 800-439-8550. You may call as well if you spent significant time in the Albany area since the blasts occurred at around 10:00 a.m. on, Sunday May 31.

Do Not Travel to Albany City, Albany and Rensselaer Counties
New York has seen significant disruption. Vermonters are still advised not to travel into Rensselaer and Albany Counties in New York or to the City of Albany. Additional information about public health or environmental health in New York is available from those agencies.

For More Information –
Stay tuned to radio and TV for updates and announcements. For updates, extensive additional information and resources, go to healthvermont.gov, or dial 2-1-1 for assistance in any language.

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