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County Tests for Radiation Levels

By Brittany Patterson - bpatterson@wbbjtv.com

It's been just more than two weeks since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan damaged its nuclear power plants. Elevated radiation levels in Japan now have officials all over the world testing for contamination, including here in West Tennessee.

Jackson-Madison County Emergency Management Director Marty Clements says there's no reason for alarm, but it's time to be prepared for anything.

"Just like the Japanese, everybody's worried about it," said Clements. "Yes, there has been a rise in the West Coast and some in the East Coast because these particles got in the upper atmosphere and we're moved around by the weather."

Clements is taking extra steps to make sure West Tennessee radiation levels are normal.

"So if there is a rise in radiation around here we're going to know," said Clements.

This test wasn't prompted by what happened in Japan. In fact, radiation levels are measured four times per year in set locations to determine a baseline. Those measurements are then sent to TEMA, and eventually Homeland Security.

"This is normal. This is part of our job requirement that we do," said Clements. "We'll maybe do it a little extra this quarter - just to see. Especially if we find some spikes somewhere. And if the reactor there has more problems, then we're going to watch a little bit closer."

A closer watch, just like in the case of any other emergency event.

"If we have a chemical incident on the interstate or railroad or fixed facility, we're going to tell people to do the same thing," said Clements. "You know, watch what you touch, clean your hands frequently, take you outer garments off somewhere else.. wash and be careful."

But for now, he says radiation levels are normal here in West Tennessee - and he's keeping tabs to make sure it stays that way.

"We're out there, we're prepared. We're looking at it," said Clements. "So this should put everybody's mind at ease. Because if there was a spike, they'd know about it real soon."
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