REPORT FROM BRYANSK REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATION "VIOLA"
"Conducting Radiological Monitoring in the city of Novozybkov and the Novozybkov District"
Dr. Ludmila Zhirina, President
I Stage One April 2003
Members of Viola contacted technical and medical stores in Bryansk to find out what kind of radiation measuring instruments were for sale. After study of all available types, three were chosen as most useful and economical. They are produced in Minsk (Belorus), Slavutich (Ukraine) and Moscow (Russia). All cost in the $30-40 range. One example of each make was purchased to test for convenience and value to people living in radioactive zones. Viola also acquired an American-made instrument "Monitor 4" to use as a check on the accuracy of the other three.
II Stage Two April 2003
Volunteers of Viola wrote up instructions for the use of each monitoring instrument and these were duplicated in 200 copies so that each instrument would have with it several copies for use by a number of families.
III Stage Three May 2003
Three members of Viola, including project co-coordinators Ludmila Zhirina and Igor Prokofiev, spent three days studying the radiological situation in the city and district of Novozybkov in the Bryansk Region of southern Russia. They found that the most radioactive contamination, seventeen years after the Chernobyl accident, was in the southern part of the city and in several neighboring villages.
One village called Svyatsk, where the population of 900 families had long ago been evacuated, only four elderly people were found who lived on food from their gardens and berries and mushrooms from surrounding woods. They were given a radiation meter with instructions on its use. They helped the Viola team to measure radiation levels were over ten times higher than the usual background level. By comparison, in the first year after the Chernobyl accident, the radiation was more than 1000 times higher than background. Thus nature slowly heals itself.
People from neighboring villages had come and collected bricks, window frames, doors and other items to build or improve their homes. They did not know of the radiation that lingered still in these building materials.
Also near Novozybkov is an artificial hill in the countryside, which was created in 1986-90 by dumping contaminated soil from areas with high levels of radiation. There are no warning signs or fences. Children slide down "the mountain" in winter on skies and sleds and in summer they pick berries there. The Viola team measured over 100 times background radiation in the grass, where the children play and collect berries, and 15 times background radiation in a basket of berries.
The south section of the city of Novozybkov still has radiation levels about 15 times higher than background. In other parts of the city there is intensive growth and building. Many new homes are build and old ones refurbished. The Viola team showed residents how to use the three kinds of radiation measuring instruments. Their preference was for the RKSB-104 manufactured in Moscow because it measured the largest number of parameters.
While in Novozybkov, the Viola team witnessed a religious procession in which children and adults carried religious pictures (ikons) and asked God to save their health and help them survive their difficult conditions. Many people felt their only hope was with God. The team also visited the main cemetery and learned that it was expanding much more rapidly than cemeteries in "safe zones".
The assistant head of the city administration, Tatyana Beglenko, promised to help and support the project. She co-led with the Viola team presentations to city residents about the radiation measurement project. She was given one of the instruments and promised that anyone in the city could come and borrow it.
Before leaving Novozybkov, the team made plans to return and conduct workshops for small farmers and teachers on the use of radiation measuring instruments and interpretation of the results.
IV Fourth Stage May 2003
Volunteers of Viola prepared for workshops in Novozybkov. Nine more instruments were purchased for distribution in the area. Teaching plan and materials were worked up, including a brochure on organizing such workshops.
V Fifth Stage June 2003
Viola staff and volunteers conducted a series of workshops in Novozybkov,
One was for teachers of the city and district who planned to teach at summer camps for students June-August. Another included 25 young teachers of biology, geography and ecology. In school number 2 a workshop was held for teachers and senior students. Food for students is grown at school number 6 so a workshop was held there for teachers and students of all ages. In each case, a radiation measuring instrument was donated to the group or school.
VI Sixth Stage July-August 2003
The Viola staff and volunteers gave advice by telephone to residents of Novozybkov and ensured that the instruments were passed from hand to hand with the instructional material.
VII Seventh Stage End of August 2003A second project visit will be made to Novozybkov by Viola staff to check on participants in the project. They will work with participants to make a map of the region showing areas of high radioactivity to inform the public of the dangers.