Citizen Monitoring of Seawater Radiation on the Sonoma Coast


March 8, 2018

Contact: Linda Speel, Peace Roots Alliance (

John Bertucci, Fukushima Response (

Citizen scientists in Sonoma County have detected Cesium-137 in the seawater at Bodega Head that appears to originate from Fukushima Daiichi. The seawater sample, taken in October, 2017, registered 6.9 Becquerels of Cesium-137 per cubic meter of seawater (6.9 Bq 137Cs/m3). (Bq/m3 is the number of decay events per second per 260 gallons of water.) This is the highest level of 137Cs observed on the Pacific Coast since the nuclear accident in March, 2011. However, the levels are still barely detectable and are much lower than they were in the 1960s when nuclear weapons were tested in the atmosphere.

A group of Sonoma County nonprofit groups and private citizens have banded together to monitor radiation levels on our coast, and have been working with Woods Hole Research Institute (WHOI), International Medcom, Safecast and others to collect and process data, build scientific credibility into the program, and to share the data. The local nonprofits are Peace Roots Alliance, Fukushima Response and Whalesong Project.

For each sample, volunteers collect five gallons of seawater from the beach at Bodega Head and ship it to WHOI in Massachusetts for analysis with a multi-channel analyzer. Other high samples in the Woods Hole data set are from Eureka, CA, which had 6.2 Bq 137Cs/m3 and from the Big Island of Hawaii with 4.6 Bq 137Cs/m3. Readings are online:

In Sonoma County, International Medcom has also installed a radiation sensor in fresh ocean water at the U. C. Davis Bodega Marine Lab to provide continuous real-time data. That sensor data is routed to Safecast’s real-time sensor network and can be viewed online ( Safecast, a nonprofit organization formed after Fukushima to make radiation data freely available worldwide, is affiliated with MIT Media Lab and Japan’s Keio University.

The sensor at the Bodega Marine Lab is not sensitive enough to detect the subtle increase in radiation that has occurred to date, which is why we’ve been sending seawater samples to WHOI.

Each seawater sample costs $550.00 to process. With joint fundraising efforts, Peace Roots Alliance, Fukushima Response and generous donors have been paying for these samples to be tested. We’d like to continue to take these samples so we can establish a baseline record and we need the public’s help in funding it. You can make a donation for this project here:

When the Great East Japan Earthquake hit on March 11, 2011, nuclear power stations along the coast of Fukushima Prefecture experienced loss of coolant that resulted in three reactor meltdowns over the ensuing days. Since those events, great effort has been expended to keep the reactors cool and to lay the groundwork for decommissioning them in a process that will span decades. Although progress is being made, radioactive water from the nuclear sites continues to flow into the Pacific Ocean, and there are proposals in place to dump radioactive water that has been stored onsite into the ocean. This situation has raised concerns in Japan and Asia, and in distant coastal communities connected by ocean currents along the entire Pacific Rim, including Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii.

You can learn more about Fukushima Response at: or

Peace Roots Alliance ( works with a number of groups to promote peace. We have been collecting seawater samples from Bodega Head, CA for five years through WHOI.

Whalesong Project ( is dedicated to inspiring stewardship of the ocean and environment by providing meaningful connections to the world’s undersea community

Collecting Water Samples at Bodega Head

As part of an effort to establish a baseline for radiation levels in the ocean off the coast of northern California, we have been collecting water samples at Bodega Head for several years. This week Gary and Linda Hlady joined Richard and Linda Speel to collect five gallons of sea water that we send to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where Ken Buesseler performs the analysis and publishes the results at

You can support this project by visiting Woods Hole’s Bodega Head page.

Letter from Michael O’Gorman

I spent much of my life working on the US/Mexican border. Twenty years ago this month I would spend my mornings growing lettuce in Yuma, Arizona, my afternoons farming cherry tomatoes right over the border in San Luis Rio Colorado and my evenings back in Yuma, repacking tomatoes that came up each day from our farm in Sinaloa.

Feeding America its vegetables was a joint venture between two nations and two people. This picture here was a few years earlier in El Centro, California. That year one of the fields I farmed in Holtville was literally on the south side of the border. The fence, which was there at the time, took a detour around it, with both sides agreeing it should stay in the hands of the American family that farmed it with the help of his Mexican workers.

For years my workers in Salinas Valley and the Central Valley would travel freely home each year after the harvest was done, eager to get back to the family, the pueblo and the weeks of holiday festivities. If they finished the year in good standing they went home wearing a nice company jacket and a letter from me saying there was a job waiting for them when they came back in the spring. Over time, things changed. It became so costly and dangerous to cross the border that those on this side stopped going home. Men with wives and young children in Mexico drifted away and found new women and lives here.

Then there was the time around 1999, when I was farming full-time in Mexico, and a woman literally threw herself at me, begging that I keep her husband employed all winter or he would have to go north and leave her and their six young children. As much as I tried, I could not employ everyone who needed it. She came back a month later, asking if I could pay to bring home his body; he had died on the long trek through the desert.

I am not writing here to argue, or start an argument, about immigration or building a wall. I would have to write a much longer piece than this to explain just some of its complexities. But I do know that the people from Mexico that worked for me on both sides of the border were the kindest, noblest, hardest working people one could ever meet and none of us would have what we have on our plates tonight without them.

Michael O’Gorman
January 25, 2017

SOA Watch to Converge on the U.S. Mexico Border from October 7-10, 2016

Farms Not Arms is endorsing the SOA Watch Convergence at the Border and we encourage you to join the October 7-10 vigils, protests and workshops at the Eloy Detention Center, in Tucson, and in Nogales, Arizona/ Sonora at the border wall. Visit the convergence webpage for more information: 
It is important that we have a strong showing of activists from throughout the U.S. and Mexico in the lead-up to the November elections. We are going to take a stand for justice and demand fundamental change in US policies that goes beyond elections. Come out and amplify the demands of the convergence:

  • An end to the destructive U.S. military, economic, and political interventions in the Americas.
  • De-militarization of the borders. We need to build bridges with our neighbors, not walls.
  • The dismantling of the racist and sexist systems that steal from, criminalize, and kill migrants, refugees, natives, gender non-conforming people, communities of color, and others throughout the hemisphere.
  • Respect, dignity, justice and self-determination for all communities, especially the poor and most vulnerable
  • No more profits over people! Private military, prison, oil, mining, and other corporations should not determine our future or that of the earth, the people should.

For the full schedule of October 7-10 events, visit

Win a Geiger Counter!

Fukushima Response

Win an Inspector Alert ?
& help fund a regional monitoring project ?
win-win either way !

Print out the pdf Flyer for full details here:–Final.pdf

It’s easy to enter by mail (sorry, no online option) pdf Flyer comes with plenty of tickets…

Fukushima Response Treasurer Jude Mion will enter your mailed in tickets – as many as you fill out & send us – when your check is received

Winner will be notified immediately – pls write your contact info clearly…

Drawing in Petaluma on November 10th will be video recorded & fb posted here:


Learn – Measure – Avoid the invisible dragon… including Dai-ichi

“Level 8” Nuclear Disaster Campaign Launched

Urgent Demand for International Response to Ongoing Nuclear Reactor Meltdowns in Fukushima Kicks Off at NYC Climate March

The “Level 8” Nuclear Disaster campaign is focused on mobilizing governments and organizations in every country to demand modification of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s current 7-level scale that indicates the severity of nuclear accidents. This newly proposed “Level 8” would firmly classify the gravity of the situation in Fukushima as a crisis calling for an unprecedented, internationally coordinated response of resources and aid in answer to a global nuclear emergency.

Three Petitions for you to sign & share:

We’re Monitoring Radioactivity – Can We Monitor Fracking Emissions?

Farms Not Arms has been working with the Fukushima Response Campaign and Safecast to set up a global network of citizens monitoring nuclear radiation. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Safecast was on hand to record and release some of the first data on where the plumes had gone over Japan. They coupled radiation detectors with GPS monitors, put them on cars, and drove around, sending readings wherever they went. Their release of data prompted the Japanese Government to release some of their own data.

The Fukushima Response Campaign [FR] has been working in Northern California to train people to use Geiger counters, take readings, and send them in to Safecast. An initial plume of radiation came over in the air when Fukushima first exploded, and the crippled plant continues to pour millions of tons of contaminated water into the ocean off Japan, but at this point no large plume of Fukushima radiation is hitting the west coast of the United States, either in the air or the water. However many feel its arrival is inevitable. The idea of FR is to establish a base, a benchmark of the background radiation before substantial Fukushima radiation does hit, so that when it does, we will know it. State and federal agencies have so far been lax in their monitoring, and hopefully this citizen effort will prompt more monitoring by official institutions. Fukushima Response has been teaming up with similar groups on the West Coast to build a network of monitors, and Safecast is building a rapidly growing global network of data points.

One of the functions of Fukushima Response [FR] and Safecast has been to debunk false or mistaken or exaggerated reports of radiation spikes. Such reports erode the credibility of those who are trying to call attention to the continuing danger of the crippled reactors, like crying wolf too often. In one case, a strip of sand with higher than normal radiation was discovered on Maverick Beach, where the high waves are. FR was able to get a sample tested and establish that the radiation was not from Fukushima. This helps establish FR as a reliable source of information in an information-crowded universe. As the citizen monitoring network grows, it is almost inevitable that more sources of radiation will be discovered. This kind of network puts technology and information that used to be understood by only a few in the hands of the people, educating and empowering us.

[I have recently been informed of another citizen monitoring group in the Tennessee Valley that is documenting radiation releases from nuclear power plants. ]

It occurred to me that this type of citizen monitoring network might apply to the fracking situation. I recently watched a webinar on fracking put on by Food and Water Watch and the Land Stewardship Project, and then watched the Weather Channel report on fracking in the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas. A big problem in TX is the lack of hard data on exactly what toxic chemicals are being released into the air by the fracking operations. People report burning eyes, choking and shortness of breath, but it is intermittent and as yet there is no way to conclusively prove the cause. The energy company is supposed to be monitoring the air, but in one case discussed in the report, the nearest monitor is twenty miles away! If monitors could be set up at those sites they could establish a baseline for “clean air,” and then whenever the emissions occur they could be recorded and analyzed, and a map of exposure data points could be established, which would help make a case for curtailing or shutting down the operations.

Another aspect of this is the radioactivity itself. It is known that drilling for oil often brings up material that is radioactive. That was one of the possible explanations put forth for the high readings on that strip of Maverick Beach. Radioactive material tends to collect and concentrate in oil pipelines, and there could have been one under that beach. It is entirely possible that there could be elevated radiation levels at various points around fracking operations, especially in those settling ponds for material that has returned from the depths. Has anyone been checking the material in the collecting ponds of fracking operations for radiation? This might prove to be valuable and necessary information.

These thoughts should be treated as brainstorming. I am not an expert on monitoring air for toxics, but I’m sure the technical knowledge is out there. In any case, citizen monitoring empowers us by making the unknown known and educating people in general to the real state of the environment in which we live, and which we are recreating all the time.

Federal Dysfunction Opens Door to “Monsanto Protection Act”


Monsanto Hitches a Ride on Must-Pass Budget Bill

By Patty Lovera

If there is one thing you can count on with this Congress, it’s drama over money. The month of March has seen plenty of funding fights, with sequestration in the beginning of the month and an ugly process to prevent a federal government shutdown at the end.

One of the many problems with operating this way is how many opportunities for mischief stop_monsanto_p_act_350are available when Congress is dealing with a huge package of “must pass” legislation. That’s exactly what happened last week when Congress passed a “continuing resolution” to fund the federal government for the rest of the year (the President signed it into law this week). This continuing resolution was necessary because Congress did not complete the normal process for setting budgets for federal agencies and the government has been running on an extension of the previous year’s budget that was about to run out.

Besides keeping the government open, the continuing resolution also contained two terrible “riders” that do more than set funding levels – they also change how USDA operates. The first stops USDA from enforcing contract fairness rules for contract poultry growers, allowing big chicken companies to continue to treat them unfairly. Food & Water Watch and hundreds of farm groups worked to include these vital provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill to protect farmers from unfair and deceptive practices by meatpacking and poultry companies.

Read the whole article . . . 

Foodopoly and Farmers

At the 33rd Annual Eco-Farm Conference, Jan. 23-26, 2013, Wenonah Hauter gave a plenary presentation based on her book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America.

Wenonah Hauter is Executive Director, Food and Water Watch, Washington DC

Hauter’s main theme, and one of the main themes of the entire conference, was that “it is critical for the food movement to become more political and help build the power to hold elected officials accountable” (Eco-Farm conference booklet p 27). We have been “voting with our forks” for some time now, and it has made a substantial difference, but if we want to make the big changes that will make our food systems sustainable and make clean, healthy food available to all, we will need to become more politically organized.

Michael Pollan expressed the same idea in a recent New York Times Magazine article entitled “Vote for the Dinner Party,”, and a recent book from Food First, entitled Food Movements Unite! extends the argument to the entire globe, where roughly the same conflicts are going on between large corporate or, in some cases, sovereign investors on the one hand, and local, small or medium sized, usually more sustainable farmers who are being undermined and put out of business by the conglomerates.

We need to build political power to change the structure of our food system, said Hauter. The USDA claims there are two million US farms, but Hauter says that is a BIG exaggeration. There are many fewer. One third of those two million have annual sales less than $1,000, and two thirds are under $10,000. They count hobbyists and part time farmers, people who should not be counted. There are actually under one million full-time farmers using their own labor. Eighty percent of these get government subsidies that keep them afloat, often just barely. Even small and middle size farmers don’t make it without the government. Farm income averages $19,000, and the subsidies are half of that! Most farm households need off-farm income to survive. This is NOT a fair market. Farmers pay more for their inputs than they get out of their crop.

PepsiCo is the Number One food company, Hauter said, worth $64 billion, and it made $6.4 billion in profit last year. Then she asked everyone to stand up—there were several hundred people in the hall–and then said “Sit if you have eaten any of the following,” and proceeded to read off a list of at least a couple dozen PepsiCo products. After two or three, most everyone had sat down (despite the fact that we were all organic and clean food advocates), but she went on reading. Only one man stood at the end, and most of us thought he was kidding. Point made. [Besides Pepsi, PepsiCo owns the brands FritoLay, Tropicana (including Dole), Quaker, and Gatorade, and all the products under those brands. A more complete list is available at ]

These big corporations benefit from government subsidies, said Hauter, and it is easy to say just end the subsidies, but we need to look deeper. You can’t just end the subsidies because lots of people depend on them after 17 years of an evolving program. The subsidies are a band-aid on an ailing system. The deeper problem is that the food corporations who buy up the food cheap simply don’t pay a reasonable price for the food they use.

Iowa farmer George Naylor gets more specific about the question of subsidies in a 2006 Mother Jones interview.

“Well, the number one thing is farm policy that fails to put a floor under farm prices. A farm bill should act much like a minimum wage. The bottom rung of the whole structure is the production of protein, carbohydrates and oil. If farmers aren’t going to get some sort of minimum price for them, they’re going to be out doing whatever they can to produce more of them, which will only make prices lower. But at the same time, when the prices go very low, purchasers of these products—like Cargill, Tyson, ADM and Smithfield—get to buy them very cheap. And then they can feed industrial livestock very cheaply and basically take over most of the livestock production.”

Seed prices have also been rising precipitously, and not just GMO seeds, said Hauter. Farmers must sell into a concentrated market, with a few big corporate buyers, where there is not much room for a farmer to negotiate a price, so prices are driven down. So you can’t just de-subsidize, because you would drive a lot of farmers out of business, and then corporate agribusinesses would come along and gobble them up and just get bigger. We’ve gotta make more change than that.

During the New Deal years [1933-36], the US government created measures to deal with the periodic overproduction of commodity crops such as corn, wheat, and cotton, and the resulting precipitous drop in prices to the farmer, which was putting farmers out of business by the thousands. They set a floor under grain prices, created reserves to buy the extra production in bumper years and release it in leaner years, and introduced conservation measures to induce farmers to take their most sensitive lands out of production. This assured that the farmer would get a decent price for his or her work, that food would be affordable even during years of poor harvest, and that we would avoid further disasters like the American “dust bowl” of the 1930s, so graphically depicted in the Ken Burns documentary, that spawned some of these measures.

These programs were all attacked as “socialist.”  Large capitalist investors wanted people to leave the farms and move into the cheap manufacturing labor force, while making the farms bigger and more “efficient.” Over the years, Congress has managed to chip away at the New Deal programs, and had virtually eliminated these measures by the Clinton administration. The 1996 “Freedom to Farm” bill is often called “Freedom to Fail” by farmers. This took the government completely out of the process and deregulated the commodities markets. Prices dropped precipitously. So the Government, in order to keep some of these farmers in business, invented subsidies, using taxpayer money to grow commodities [which now include soybeans and canola]. This situation is now virtually permanent. Only the grain traders, in the end, benefit from the system. They get to buy cheap, while taxpayers reimburse the farmers, but not enough to help them prosper. The availability of cheap grains and beans creates confined animal feeding operations [CAFOs], which in turn allows much more grain and beans to be grown to feed the animals.

The farmer receives 2-3 cents of every dollar spent on a bag of chips, Hauter reported, while 98 cents goes to the food companies. Ninety percent of the food budget of Americans goes for processed food. Tastes become habituated, enhanced by advertising. While there are thousands of products, in terms of the actual food substances involved, there is very little diversity in the American diet; a few companies make most of the products, using a few ubiquitous ingredients. American kids see 5000 food ads a year on TV, most of them for junk. Four conglomerates control the bulk of the American food market. One dollar of every three spent for food in America goes to WalMart, a $400 billion+ company that made 40 billion in profit last year, and the Walton family holds as much wealth as the bottom 40% of Americans!

Even the organic food market is largely controlled by large companies. Most of the smaller original organic companies have been bought out by larger non-organic companies, to fill their “niche” markets. And in the organic retail sector, Whole Foods dominates; they bought out most of their competitors. UNFI has no competitors in the natural and organic food distribution world; they drive local coops out of business. UNFI made 18% profit last year. They should be subject to anti-trust laws, said Hauter, but Reagan’s people eviscerated the anti-trust laws.

We need a longer-term vision, said Hauter. We need to break up the foodopoly. We can’t let a few companies control our food. We need to fight for the food system we want. We need anti-trust enforcement. We can “vote with our fork,” but we must also vote with our vote and hold these companies responsible. We need to demand anti-trust enforcement on food companies, and control the biotech industry. Fifteen states now have GMO labeling campaigns, she said. We need to stay politically active.

GMO Update, Eco-Farm Conference 2013 and Beyond

The GMO Update panel at the Eco-Farm Conference featured four people who have been prominent in the ongoing campaign to label and otherwise regulate the spread of genetically modified organisms [GMOs] into our food chain and environment.

Pamm Larry, from Chico, CA, was the Grassroots Instigator of Prop 37, the ballot initiative to label GMOs in CA.

Wenonah Hauter is Executive Director, Food and Water Watch, Washington DC, and author of Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America

Rebecca Spector is West Coast Director of the Center for Food Safety [CFS] in San Francisco, CA; CFS is one of the main organizations legally challenging the release of GMOs.

Dag Falck is the Organic Program Manager, Nature’s Path, British Columbia; he has been involved in GMO campaigns in Canada. He says there are GE-free zones in 10 cities in BC; there’s no teeth to them, but they are statements, a step in the right direction.

Here are some of the main points they made.

All these folks considered Prop 37 a success! It lost by less than 3%, and over 6 million Californians voted for it. It catalyzed a national movement and started a national discussion, made national news, and now there are GMO labeling efforts in the works in several more states.

Rebecca Spector from CFS reported on an independent post-election poll, available at:

Prop 37 won the vote on the actual election day, 51%-49%, but lost the advance voting 56%-44%. Partly this was because of the TV attack ads run by the opposition, which got there first, in the tradition of “swift-boating.”  But this poll shows that 67% of the people still support GMO labeling: 21% of people who voted “No” still support labeling; they were convinced that prop 37 was “poorly written,” faulty.

The breakdown on Prop 37:

Latinos voted 61% Yes; Asians voted 61% Yes; African Americans voted 56% Yes; Democratic women voted 60% Yes; voters under 30 voted 55% Yes; LA County voted 52% Yes; and the SF Bay Area voted 56% Yes.

Caucasians as a group rejected the measure 58%-42%. And while people with a college degree voted against the measure 55%-45%, this same group reported in this latest poll that they support the concept of labeling GMOs by a whopping 68%-27%. Taken together, this fact plus the fact that young voters supported Prop 37 and that more people voted Yes later in the campaign, after they had seen the Yes ads, bodes well for future GMO labeling campaigns.

There is now a Washington State GMO labeling initiative. Wenonah Hauter said that many other states are considering similar measures. There is now a Coalition of States for GMO labeling. We need the states to prompt the feds; that is often how these changes happen, in states first [e.g., marriage equality, marijuana legalization].

CFS is working at the national level, they have a labeling petition to the FDA, and have 1.2 million comments in support.’s-position-on-the-food-labeling-initiative/ We WILL get GMO labeling, says Spector. She said many companies are quietly working to source and use non-GMO products.

There are bills in Congress about labeling or banning GMO salmon, and Sen. Boxer and Rep. DeFazio are proposing labeling all GMO foods. There is lots of activity happening, we are “on the verge.”

One big fight right now is over the pending approval of the farming of GMO salmon. This would be the first GMO animal approved for release into the food chain and, inevitably, the environment. Critics say escaped GMO salmon could decimate the naturally existing salmon population. For more info, go to;

Another is the pending USDA approval of GMO corn resistant to herbicides 2,4D and dicamba. Both of these herbicides are more acutely toxic than glyphosate [main ingredient in Roundup], and their use will undoubtedly skyrocket if they are approved. Weeds have developed resistance to Roundup, so GMO corporations are developing crops resistant to 2,4D and dicamba as well as glyphosate. Critics say weeds will eventually develop resistance to these herbicides as well, forcing us onto a treadmill of ever-increasing herbicide use and new resistant GMOs, a boon to the bottom line of companies that sell both seeds and herbicides. For the CFS explanation of the situation, go to

One of the most interesting consequences of this campaign is that large corporations that own smaller organic companies, that were formerly “in hiding,” came out against labeling and exposed themselves that way to boycotts of their organic products, and bad publicity in general, as transparency was increased.

And the latest news: according to the NY Times, major food companies, including PepsiCo, ConAgra, and Wal-Mart, are considering lobbying for a national labeling program. Undoubtedly they will try to get one that best suits them, but their effort shows they have recognized the inevitability of labeling as Americans become more aware of the existence of GMOs and the issues involved.

But, as Food Safety News reports, a federal labeling law might not be such a good thing if it is a weak law and it includes preemption, meaning no state or municipality may pass a law more stringent than the federal law. This is not the case with all federal laws, but is often the result of “compromise” legislation like that being considered by large food companies. For more details, the article is at

Many of these articles are brought to our attention by the Eco-Farm GE News Service, which is the best source I know of breaking news about GMOs. To subscribe, go to and join the GE News email list.

The take home message from this presentation is that political action works! We need to Take Back Our Democracy! We need to continue to let our legislators know these things are important to us. We have more power than we know if we can unite to use it.