Cattle deaths looked into by EPA

By Adam Jerome, I-O Reporter
   Last April, Craig Dyer of Brady noticed something wrong with some of his cattle.  Some of his calves and even his mature cattle were getting sick.  He couldn’t even get them to water.  A few days later they were dead.  Dyer took them to the veterinarian and when they were opened up; he noticed a lot of little blood clots in the cattle’s stomach.
   The cause of death was ruled as natural bovine illness, but Dyer believed that the clots in the stomach looked like his livestock had been exposed to radiation.  This lead Dyer to investigate around his property, what he found was some snowmelt that pooled in his corrals where his livestock was calving.
   The snowmelt was from the big storm in late April.  It had not runoff, but instead pooled giving the cattle a closer water source.  Dyer had noticed his cows drinking the pooled water and decided to take water samples of the area.
   When Dyer got the results back from the samples it showed that the Gross Alpha Emitters in the pooled snow melt were 83.1 picocuries per liter, which is more than five times the human health standard.  It is worth noting that the health standards were developed for humans, and not for cattle, so it is difficult to hypothesize what effects if any the consumption of the snowmelt might have had on the cattle.
   After he received the results Dyer contacted the complaint management section of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).  
   Richard Opper, director of the DEQ released this statement when contacted by Senator Max Baucus regarding the situation.  “Although I am sympathetic to Mr. Dyer’s loss of livestock, DEQ only regulates radionuclides/radioactivity in community public drinking water supplies and this situation falls outside DEQ’s area of expertise.”
   Instead of just dropping the issue and moving on, Sen. Baucus contacted the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of Dyer and asked them to look into the situation.
   The EPA received the data and turned it over to their Region 8 radiotoxicologist, Dr. Richard Graham in Colorado.
   Graham reviewed the samples and came to the conclusion that the loss of livestock would not have been caused by the concentration of uranium, gross alpha, and gross beta in the livestock water supply.
   However, Dr. Graham recommended that the EPA further investigate the condition of groundwater, which is also a drinking water source for neighboring ranchers and their livestock.
   The EPA explained further, “Near Mr. Dyer’s ranch are both Minutemen missile silos and oil fields.  We are aware that previous use of solvents, degreasers, and drilling fluids at these types of operations elsewhere in the Rocky Mountain region has led to local groundwater contamination, and could potentially be similarly impacting groundwater in the area of Mr. Dyer’s property.  Therefore, within the scope of EPA’s emergency response site investigation and assessment authority, water samples from the area will be collected, analyzed, and the results will be shared with Mr. Dyer and others in the area.”
   The EPA expects to begin collecting samples within the next few weeks.  Analysis and presentation of the results may take as long as two months after the samples are collected.
   Dr. Graham has already notified Dyer of the EPA’s plans and will provide updates to him and his neighbors directly.
   Keep reading the I-O for further updates into the situation as we get them.