; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fortean / Alternative News: Japan Groundwater Contaminated, 100s Dead Starfish and Blame Mothman / Aliens

U.S. experts: significant water contamination in Japan

reuters - Groundwater, reservoirs and sea water around Japan's earthquake damaged nuclear plant face "significant contamination" from the high levels of radiation leaking from the plant, a worrying development that heightens potential health risks in the region.

Nuclear and environmental scientists in the United States darkened their assessment of the risks markedly on Monday after operators at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant said that highly radioactive water has entered underground concrete tunnels extending beyond the reactor.

Sea water and fresh water used to cool the reactors, critically damaged by Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and spent fuel pools at the plant have been put in storage tanks there. But reports indicate these tanks are full or over-flowing with tainted water, experts said.

"It's just hard to see how this won't result in significant contamination of, certainly, sea water," said Edwin Lyman, a physicist and expert on nuclear plant design at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

"There will be dilution, some of that will be reconcentrated, but I don't think this can be sugar-coated at this point."

The experts said they need more information from Japanese authorities before accurately assessing the exact environmental and health impact. They did not say whether the latest developments can explain low levels of radiation in Tokyo's water supply.

But their remarks were gloomier than a few days earlier when scientists said the vast ocean would dilute radiation and it did not appear to pose a health risk.

Surface and sea water used to cool the damaged plant is tainted with radiation and could contaminate the adjacent ocean, surface reservoirs and groundwater, Lyman said. In addition, water is leaking inside various parts of different reactors and beyond, posing a threat.

"There's already been an enormous amount of radioactivity released from this plant into the air, and that will deposit on sea water and surface water supplies," said Lyman in a telephone briefing on Monday. "It's hard to imagine that there won't be some significant contamination that will have to be dealt with."

Reports that plant workers were exposed to radiation 100,000 times normal in water inside reactor No. 2 at the weekend could suggest a breach in some parts of the reactor buildings, where tainted water is pooling and getting into tunnels.

"Pathways for that (radioactive) material to get out are numerous," said David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and director of the union's Nuclear Safety Project.

Lochbaum noted that the reactor buildings for units 1, 3 and 4 at the Fukushima plant are no longer intact and therefore not acting as barriers to nuclear contamination. This contaminated water "may leave as it evaporates from puddles on the floor," he said.

Contaminated water can also be discharged in liquid form, Lochbaum said.


Sea contamination is a concern for the Japanese, who consume about 9 million tons of seafood a year, second behind China. The Kuroshio Current lies along Japan's east coast, where the $2 billion annual catch includes various kinds of tuna, mackerel, other flat fishes, squid and crabs, according to the Sea Around Us project, a collaboration of the Pew Environment Group and the University of British Columbia.

Radioactive material can get into water from steam or smoke which is carried by wind, rain or other precipitation onto land, surface reservoirs or the ocean. It could also be discharged directly into the ocean or leak onto land and eventually seep into groundwater.

Two materials are of concern -- cesium 137 and iodine 131.

Iodine 131, which can cause thyroid cancer, decays quickly, with a half-life of eight days, meaning its potency falls by a half in that time. The amount of this radioactive isotope of iodine is a tiny fraction of the amount of normal iodine in ocean water, said Timothy Kenna, an expert on the ocean and radiation at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.

Cesium 137, also a carcinogen, takes much longer. It has a half-life of 30 years. There are still traces of this radioactive isotope lingering from nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s, Kenna said. So far, it has not been a threat to marine life, he said by telephone.

Both chemicals would likely stay in the upper 100 yards (meters) of the ocean if they were deposited on the surface by emissions from the Fukushima plant, he said. The ocean has an average depth of 4,000 yards, meaning it has a far large volume to allow for dilution compared with rivers or lakes.

Global nuclear weapons tests showed that marine wildlife tends to absorb less radioactive material than organisms in lakes or rivers, said F. Ward Whicker, an emeritus professor at Colorado State University and one of the founders of the field of radioecology, which addresses the affects of radioactivity on the environment.

Additionally, when there is plenty of potassium and calcium in the ocean, marine life will absorb those nutrients before taking in radioactive materials, lessening the danger of seafood contamination, experts said.


Hundreds of dead starfish wash up on Talybont, Wales beach

BBC - Several hundred dead starfish have been found washed up on a north Wales beach.

It comes following the discovery at Talybont, between Harlech and Barmouth in Gwynedd.

Council maritime officer Barry Davies said it is common for starfish to be washed ashore during spring tides but it was not clear why they had migrated so far up the shoreline.

Barmouth harbour committee chairman said an inquiry is needed.

Councillor Trefor Roberts said: "What I would like is a full scientist report on what caused the deaths of these starfish."

Mr Davies said he did not think anything suspicious has led to the deaths of the starfish.


He said that the common starfish - found around the UK coast - feed on mussels and other crustaceans and while there is no clear reason why the starfish migrated so far along the coast he felt one reason could be a shortage of food.

"We are confident that the cause is not related to pollution or to a vessel having dredged the starfish and discarded the starfish overboard," he said.

Although a distressing sight to see, he said the starfish were not a hazard and would probably be consumed by seagulls.

Talybont resident David Haddon said: "I can understand one or two dying, but there have been occasions where loads of jellyfish have died in this area."


Whistle-blowing witch grounded by TSA

Here's a situation for all you aspiring managers: If you were the boss at a U.S. government agency and one of your employees complained that she was afraid of a co-worker's religious practices, what would you do?

Would it change your decision if the religion were Wicca, and the employee feared her co-worker because she thought she might cast a spell on her?

Here's how the Transportation Security Administration handled it:

It fired the witch.

Each person's story is unique, but what happened to Carole A. Smith gives us a glimpse of the work life of the 400,000-plus Wiccans in the United States. And it sheds light on work life at the TSA, where the 40,000-plus public employees who keep bad people and bad things off of airplanes have started voting this month on whether to join a union.

At New York's Albany International Airport on March 12, 2009, transportation security officer Smith was called into the office of the No. 2 TSA boss there, the assistant federal safety director for law enforcement.

Smith, then 49, was a probationary employee, on the job for just seven months. Records show that she'd had several minor disciplinary actions — she'd forgotten her name tag one time, had been a few minutes late, had stayed too long on break — but the agency classified her performance as “satisfactory.” Continue reading at Whistle-blowing witch grounded by TSA


Ivanka Trump's accused stalker blames aliens and Mothman for mental problems

gothamist - The man who is accused of stalking Ivanka Trump was in court yesterday, where he pleaded not guilty to continuing to stalk her while out on bail for those very charges. Justin Massler, aka Cloud Starchaser, faces four counts of criminal contempt in addition to the stalking and harassment charges, and a judge ordered he take a psychiatric fitness exam. "I should stop bothering her, but I like her," Massler, who gave his address as "a volcano on Hawaii," told authorities yesterday.

After missing several court dates over the past year due to a lack of funds, Massler was arrested in LA and extradited back to NY in February. He plead not guilty to the misdemeanor stalking charges last month, and was freed on $10,000 bail. At the time, he told the News that he wouldn't try to visit her again in person, but he wouldn't let go of the prospect of wooing her from afar: "Instead, I'll become like a big-time millionaire, real estate mogul so that she's the one who contacts me. It will be more indirect, like, let the girls come to me." But the judge yesterday said he had continued a campaign of harassment, and was ordered held without bail.

When we spoke to Massler last month, he told us that he viewed himself as a "fake stalker" and performance artist: "To me, honestly, this is all like a game of make believe, and I'm just tired of adults taking the world so seriously. I don't see the need to be so serious all the time." Massler's lawyer, George Vomvolakis, echoed that assessment of him, but added that his client needs profesional help: "He's a highly intelligent individual with various mental issues he's been addressing his entire life."

Many of the dallies have pointed to a YouTube video Massler made which blames aliens and Mothman for his current situation as proof of his mental instability