Radioactive cesium over government standards found in rainwater collection tanks in Yokohama City over 250 km from Fukushima Daiichi

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NHK reports sand from underground rainwater collection tanks at elementary and junior high schools in Yokohama City have been found contaminated with radioactive cesium in excess of 16,800 becquerels per kilogram, well over the national safety standards.  The Board of Education announced that it will conduct investigations at over 40 other schools with similar water tanks.

The Board of Education conducted the survey after a request from a contracted sludge treatment company to examine radioactive materials in the reservoir.  The water in the tanks was primarily used to flush toilets on each floor of the school.  There had been no concern prior to the investigations, and at some locations the water may have been considered as an alternate source of water supply.

Yokohama City is approximately 250 km from the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.    It lies on Tokyo Bay and is the second largest city in Japan. Wikipedia says It is a major commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo Area.

On April 14th, 2011, the U.S. Department of State reduced the travel alert to Japan only to the 50 miles radius of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which excluded major cities such as Tokyo and Yokohama.

In September 2011, radioactive cesium more than 80 times the government-set limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram was found in sediment collected from roadside ditches in Yokohama City.  The apartment rooftop in Yokohama, where tests were conducted by the city found more than 60,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of sediments.

The city decided to test the sample for radioactive strontium at the request of a local resident who said a private testing institution had detected 195 becquerels of strontium per kilogram in the rooftop sample.The city also found 35,000 becquerels/kg of cesium in the sediment at a fountain nearby, 27,600 becquerels/kg from the dirt overflow from the plant box on the road, and 11,320 becquerels/kg from the dirt overflow from the plant box on the side walk.

After the detection of cesium and strontium in Yokohama, the soil was later removed from the area by the city, and the local government asked the Japanese central government to investigate areas beyond 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Fukushima plant for radioactive material.

In November, Tokyo officials admitted that approximately 800 people were served radioactive cesium-tainted shiitake mushrooms harvested in Yokohama City during both March and October of this year. Yokohama City is approximately 250 km from the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Contamination levels from those picked in March were 2,770 Bq/kg; those gathered in October measured 955 Bq/kg. The government limit is 500 Bq/kg.

While Yokohama City fed Kindergarteners and school children with domestic beef contaminated with radioactive cesium despite protests from the concerned parents, the cafeteria at Yokohama City Hall for the city employees and guests were serving beef imported from Australia.  6 elementary schools served radioactive beef 5 times, and 22 schools served it 4 times.

A Japanese blogger EX-SKF, found here, closely followed the Yokohama story last fall;

According to his research, the total number of schools and children for Yokohama City was:

No. of schools: 158 schools  — — No. of children who ate: 84,061

His analysis also showed some very enlightening facts about how the officials handled citizens complaints.

Many schools don’t allow children to carry water bottles to schools, and say they have to drink tap water; Many schools still don’t allow home-made lunches, and one school demands the parents that they make exactly the same lunch as the school lunch if they insist on home-made lunch for their children. Some schools collect monthly lunch fees from the parents even if their children carry home-made lunches.

So, the concerned citizens in Yokohama was raising the issue (about potentially contaminated school foods)since April, and the they were dead right. They raised the issue with the city, and the city refused to do anything. Why?

They could have tested the meat in April, and could have stopped using it. Instead, they did nothing, forced kids to eat school lunches (many parents were upset with school principals refusing to allow home-made lunch).   Too afraid to find out?   Too cheap to test?

It was only July 11 that Yokohama City finally stopped using the beef for lunch, several days before the summer break. They switched to pork, as if pork were safe. (More than 10,000 pigs have been moved from Fukushima and scattered throughout Japan since April, and there is no way to trace the movement as there is no unique identification system for pigs.)

The City is determined to keep sending school children to the summer school in an elevated radiation area in Gunma Prefecture. The officials insist it is safe, because they are told it’s safe. Never mind that nearby locations have levels like 0.50 microsievert/hour (official), and a citizen measured as high as 1.26 microsievert/hour in the very area that the children may go to.

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