Trace amounts of radioactive iodine linked to Japan's crippled nuclear power station have turned up in rainwater samples as far away as Massachusetts during the past week, state officials said Sunday.
The low level of radioiodine-131 detected in precipitation at a sample location in Massachusetts is comparable to findings in California, Washington state and Pennsylvania and poses no threat to drinking supplies, public health officials said.
Utilities in North and South Carolina also report trace amounts of radiation from the damaged nuclear reactor in Japan.
Progress Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. in North Carolina and South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. all operate nuclear plants and say they've detected trace amounts of radiation.
Air samples from the same location as the water reading in Massachusetts have shown no detectable radiation.
The samples are being collected from more than 100 sites around the country that are part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Radiation Network monitoring system.
"The drinking water supply in Massachusetts is unaffected by this short-term, slight elevation in radiation," said Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach.
"We will carefully monitor the drinking water as we exercise an abundance of caution," he said.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. directed the Department of Environmental Protection to collect additional samples for testing from several water bodies across Massachusetts. Results will be available over the next several days.
At concentrations found, the radioiodine-131 would likely become undetectable in a "relative short time," according to a statement issued by agency.
Trace amounts of radiation believed to have originated from damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors in the aftermath of Japan's devastating 9.0 earthquake on March 11 have also been detected in air samples in several western U.S. states, but at levels so small they posed no risk to human health.
In Japan, mounting problems, including miscalculated radiation figures and inadequate storage tanks for huge amounts of contaminated water, stymied emergency workers Sunday as they struggled to bring the country's nuclear complex back from the edge of disaster. Workers were trying to remove radioactive water from the nuclear compound and restart the regular cooling systems for the dangerously hot fuel.