Concord, NH – The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Emergency Services Unit (ESU) today announced it will immediately begin testing and collecting water samples along the Connecticut River. The field sampling plan is in response to the tritium leak at the Vermont Yankee (VY) Nuclear Power Plant located in Vernon, Vermont. Samples will be collected and tested on a weekly basis beginning today, in various locations along the Connecticut River adjacent to VY. Officials at Vermont Yankee detected a tritium leak back in January when elevated levels of the radioactive material were discovered in an on-site monitoring well.
“Since the leak was detected at Vermont Yankee, we have been working with Vermont public health officials in monitoring the situation to ensure the health and safety of New Hampshire residents,” said New Hampshire’s Public Health Director Dr. José Montero. “Our public health lab has collected and tested samples along the Connecticut River, and recently all test samples came back negative for detection of tritium contamination.”
DHHS, along with NH Department of Agriculture, NH Department of Environmental Services, NH Fish and Game, NH Fire Marshal’s Office, and the NH Department of Safety developed the robust field-sampling plan that was carefully designed in accordance with scientific principles. The field-sampling team will collect samples on a weekly basis through the end of March.
Tritium is one of the least dangerous radionuclides because it emits very weak radiation. It does not pose any hazard externally, but can pose an internal hazard if large quantities are ingested or inhaled.
DHHS’ Division of Public Health routinely collects and analyzes hundreds of environmental samples each year around the 10-mile emergency planning zones of both VY and Seabrook Station nuclear power plants to monitor air, soil, ground and surface water and plants. No radiation levels above what occurs naturally in the environment have been found. DHHS will continue to test water samples and work with VY and the Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner until the situation is resolved.