(AP) — Scientists have crowdsourced a network of volunteers taking water samples at beaches along the U.S. West Coast in hopes of capturing a detailed look at low levels of radiation drifting across the ocean since the 2011 tsunami that devastated a nuclear power plant in Japan.
With the risk to public health extremely low, the effort is more about perfecting computer models that will better predict chemical and radiation spills in the future than bracing for a threat, researchers say.
Federal agencies are not sampling at the beach. The state of Oregon is sampling, but looking for higher radiation levels closer to federal health standards, said state health physicist Daryl Leon. Washington stopped looking after early testing turned up nothing, said Washington Department of Health spokesman Donn Moyer.
“We know there’s contaminated water coming out of there, even today,” Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said in a video appealing for volunteers and contributions.
In fact, it is the biggest pulse of radioactive liquid dropped in the ocean ever, he said.
Sara Gamble of Washington state, the mother of a young child, raised $500 because she thinks it is important to know what is really going on. Woods Hole sent her a bucket, a funnel, a clipboard, a UPS shipping label, instructions and a big red plastic container for her sample. She went to Ocean Shores, Washington, a couple of weeks ago, collected her sample and shipped it off. No results have come back yet. To do another sample, she will have to raise another $500.