Why is there a helicopter flying low over my neighborhood?
The state Department
of Health asked for federal support to measure the background levels of
radiation in sections of King and Pierce counties. This information will
give us a radiation baseline. The low altitude provides a more accurate
measurement of background radiation.
What is a radiological or radiation baseline and why is it needed?
A radiation baseline
tells us how much background radiation is currently found in an area. This
baseline would be used to compare against measurements taken after a
radiation emergency occurs. It helps state and local officials quickly
determine where potential health effects may exist and to warn people in the
What kind of radioactive material do you expect to find, and what are the
We expect to detect
natural radioactive material. We may also find evidence that licensed
radioactive material users are doing work in approved locations such as
medical centers and road construction. If we find radiation levels above
expected background, or that are not from our approved licensees, we'll
investigate the source of the radiation. The investigative team consists of
federal, state, and local response personnel.
Are you doing the survey to find out how much radioactive material came from
This project is
looking for radioactive material that exists in our environment. The survey
isn't focused on radioactive material from Japan. The amount of material
from Japan was extremely low and will not be detected by equipment on the
Did the nuclear reactor damage in Japan lead to this project?
This project isn't
related to the disaster in Japan. It began in September 2009, well before
the earthquake in Fukushima. The helicopter flyover is part of a multi-phase
project to improve our state readiness to respond to radiation emergencies.
you going to provide the survey results, and if so, how?
The survey results
will be provided after all the reports have been completed and the quality
of the information has been verified. The Department of Health will work
with the agencies that are part of the survey to determine how the results
will be shared.
What kind of radiation does the helicopter detect?
detects gamma radiation. This type of radiation can travel the distance
between the ground and the helicopter, so it's easy to detect during a
Is there radiation you cannot detect?
We will not be able to detect beta or alpha radiation on the ground. The
distance between the helicopter and the ground is too great to be able to
measure these types of radiation from the air.
If you find something that can cause health problems, will you tell us, and
if so, how?
We will tell the
public if we find radioactive material that can cause health problems. The
notification would be sent to the news media, and posted on the websites of
state and local health and emergency management agencies.
Who is responsible for the flyover?
The state Department
of Health has been working with local emergency management and public health
officials to coordinate the project. The state Department of Health is
responsible for assuring that the survey is completed properly.
Who is paying for the flyover?
The flyover is funded
by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant.
If you find a lot of radiation in a location, will it be cleaned up?
We do not expect to
see any areas emitting harmful levels of radiation. If we do find areas that
may be harmful, action will be taken to protect the public. Environmental
cleanup decisions and activities are made in coordination with the state
Department of Ecology, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and local
Are you going to fly over the entire state, and if not, why not?
We're flying over
sections of King and Pierce counties using federal money designated for use
in these areas. To expand the area surveyed, more funding would be needed.
Why aren't you flying over the Hanford Nuclear Reservation?
The U.S. Department
of Energy already has data for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation so there's no
need to duplicate that work.