Hurricane Sandy churned up pockets of a decades-old radioactive element, found in sediment samples taken from Reynolds Channel, according to Newsday.
Elevated levels of cesium-137 were discovered by a team of scientists from Queens College, Adelphi University, and University of Texas at Austin as part of a study on the effects of Hurricane Sandy, said the report.
Levels reached up to seven times the normal concentration, hitting up to 141 pico Curies per kilogram compared to the usual 20-30, Cecelia McHugh told Newsday.
"I think it's high but not terribly high," McHugh, a professor at Queens College School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, told Newsday, adding the "motion" in the water caused by Hurricane Sandy likely "kicked up" deposits.
Fallout from nuclear weapons testing sent elevated levels of the element into our environment in the 1950s and 1960s, but most of it has decayed, said the EPA. Levels of cesium-137 much higher than ones found in the study can increase risk of cancer, but the element can also used to treat cancer.
Other scientists said that a sampling of local fish would be a real indicator of levels and impacts of the element.
Nicholas S. Fisher, director of the Consortium for Inter-Disciplinary Environmental Research at Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, told Newsday it would be "highly unlikely" that the element would be at a concerning level, as a sampling of local wildlife would probably show lower levels of cesium-137.
Lead, copper, and zinc were also found in elevated levels in the sampling, said the report.