EnvironmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Gov. Signs Bill Banning Release of Radioactive Wastewater in Hudson

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Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill Friday that restricts the discharge of any radiological substance into the Hudson River in connection with the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant.

The long-awaited legislation was spearheaded by State Senator Pete Harckham (D/South Salem) and Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg (D/Ossining) after concerns were raised over Holtec International’s plans to release one million gallons of radioactive wastewater from Indian Point in Buchanan.

“The Hudson River is one of New York’s landmark natural treasures, and it’s critical we stand together to protect it for generations to come,” Hochul said. “My administration remains committed to protecting the economic vitality of the region and working closely with local communities who have advocated so passionately for this cause.”

The so-called “Save the Hudson” bill passed unanimously in the Senate in June and by a margin of 101-44 in the Assembly, but awaited Hochul’s signature for two months as Holtec made preparations to dump the wastewater this fall.

Elected officials and environmental activists held two separate rally’s this month calling on Hochul to take action, the most recent being Tuesday in White Plains outside the Westchester County Center prior to a meeting where state representatives discussed plans to spend $4.2 billion from the state’s recently approved Environmental Bond Act.

“This historic, landmark law prevents the release of radioactive wastewater into the river and protects the robust economic vitality of the region. Also thank you to the many residents, environmental advocates and colleagues who fought with us so passionately to arrive at this outcome,” Harckham said. “The culmination of a tremendous amount of hard work and collaboration, Governor Hochul’s signing of the Save the Hudson bill is one of the great environmental victories in state history. We stand ready to work with all stakeholders to find alternative solutions to this challenge and to continue the timely and safe decommissioning of the Indian Point power plants.”

“The signing of this bill comes as such welcome news to so many people in my district and far beyond.,” Levenberg said. “So many people in the Hudson Valley showed up to this fight determined to protect the river that defines our region, and we will continue working together in the coming years to ensure a safe and successful decommissioning of Indian Point.”

Holtec officials have maintained all nuclear power plants discharge treated effluent containing low levels of radiological effluent, which is regulated by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Environmental Protection Agency.

The company has also stressed the practice of dumping the wastewater into the river from Indian Point has been occurring for the last 60 years and is the best alternative for handling the discharge at the 240-acre site.

“Most residents in the Hudson Valley, including the seven communities that receive their drinking water from the Hudson River, expressed concerns about the discharge of radioactive tritium into the river,” said Cortlandt Supervisor Dr. Richard Becker. “Although arguments have been made that the tritium would be very diluted and that tritium is a low-level radioactive substance, the majority of residents strongly believe that any radioactive exposure is too much. From the beginning, we believed that a safer alternative exists, and that it would be a shame to contaminate the river with water containing not only tritium but strontium and other toxic chemicals.”

Several environmental organizations also applauded the signing of the legislation.

“Riverkeeper thanks Governor Hochul for her leadership and for taking action on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who called on her to sign bipartisan legislation stopping the radioactive wastewater discharges from Indian Point,” said Riverkeeper President Tracy Brown. “This sends a clear signal that New York state is dedicated to preventing Holtec from using the Hudson River as a dumping ground for radioactive waste.”

Governor Hochul is sending a strong signal to corporate polluters — industrial waste has no place in our water,” said Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch Alex Beauchamp. “The Save the Hudson bill will ensure that the Hudson River is no longer treated as a toxic dumping ground, prioritizing public health and the environment over corporate expediency. Holtec’s plan to dump radioactive water in the Hudson River was dangerous from the start, and New Yorkers from all over the state quickly organized robust opposition.”

In a statement, Holtec maintained it may still be able to move forward with its plans, saying, “We firmly believe that this legislation is preempted by federal law and that the discharge of monitored, processed, and treated water would not impact the environment or the health and safety of the public. In the interim, we will evaluate the impact to our decommissioning milestones and the overall project schedule.”

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