About five per cent of Chatham-Kent addresses within the secondary zone of two American nuclear reactors have picked up their potassium iodide tablets, which was about as many as expected, according to the public health nurse leading the project.
Dan Drouillard from Chatham-Kent public health said he had given over 4,500 tablets to more than 200 addresses as of Thursday morning . Thursday was the last day the health unit held distribution centres for the tablets in either Tilbury or Wheatley.
Some residents in those communities are within 80 kilometres – what is called the ingestion planning zone or secondary zone – of either the Enrico Fermi 2 Nuclear Generating Plant in Monroe, Mich., or the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbour, Ohio.
“When Windsor Essex (County health unit) launched last year, I don’t even think they got 10 per cent of their addresses,” said Drouillard. “We’re running just over five per cent right now, which is kind of what I expected being even further away from the nuclear plants.”
A spokesperson from the health unit in Essex County confirmed it had so far distributed the KI tablet kits to roughly six per cent of residents under its jurisdiction.
The pills, which are only taken following a nuclear accident, are being distributed based on new safety recommendations from federal nuclear experts and not because of a change in risk level, Drouillard said earlier this fall.
“For the most part, people have been appreciative and I haven’t gotten too much backlash, if you will,” Drouillard said Thursday. “People seem to be understanding … that this is more of a precautionary thing and not an emergency or any change in what’s been happening.”
Drouillard said people seem to already know these power plants have been around for decades. However, some have asked whether the age of these facilities could pose a problem.
“As soon as I reassure them that they’re not (less safe) and that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Authority has enhanced their safety recommendations, then they understand that and they’re more than happy to take the tablets (home) as a precaution,” he said.
Amy Rudy, a Tilbury resident who picked up KI tablets for her household Thursday morning, said she isn’t concerned at this time.
“I mean the way things are going nowadays, you never know, so it is a good safety precaution and better safe than sorry, so at least they’re thinking of the people in the area,” she said.
Rudy, who has three people living in her home, said she was already aware of these facilities before the health unit launched its campaign, but her family wasn’t worried about them.
However, she said “you’re always aware of certain conditions that could happen.”
Rudy said she appreciated how the health unit has rolled out information about this program.
“It’s been in the news and the paper, keeping everybody up to date, so they’ve done a good job letting people know about it,” she said.
Drouillard said he makes sure each household would have enough tablets based on the number of people living at the address. The smallest package available from the manufacturer contains 20 tablets, he said.
The packages come with a booklet designed by public health containing information about when and how to take the pills, emergency contact numbers and how to find instructions from government officials in the event of an accident.
Chatham-Kent has 4,696 addresses within 80 kilometres of a nuclear facility. A small number of those are cottages in Rondeau Provincial Park, which is within the radius of Perry Nuclear Power Plant on the other side of Lake Erie in North Perry, Ohio.
The Rondeau addresses were not included in these distribution centres.
Drouillard said he was meeting Thursday afternoon to discuss next steps, including how the tablets can be made available on an ongoing basis, which could start in January.