NY bans dumping of radioactive waste into Hudson River

Following waves of public outcry against Holtec International’s controversial plans to dump radioactive waste into a major New York waterway, Governor Kathy Hochul  has signed legislation (S.6893/A.7208) into law, formally restricting discharges of any radiological substance into the Hudson River in connection with the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant. The proposal, formally titled the “Save the Hudson Bill” was drafted following Holtec’s announcement that the company intended to release  over a million gallons of irradiated water into the historic river

Holtec International, which specializes in the decommissioning of shuttered nuclear plants,  purchased the defunct Indian Point site from Entergy in 2021, and had devised a 15-year plan to dismantle the plant, storing its spent fuel in concrete casks. The decommissioning process must include the disposal of over  1 million gallons of filtered wastewater stored at the site, an issue that Holtec had hoped to ressolve by dumping that waste  into the Hudson River starting in May of 2023. Concerns raised by local residents and lawmakers convinced the company to voluntarily pause their initial plan, which following the adoption of the “Save the Hudson Bill” must now be scrapped entirely.

“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,” said Hochul when announcing her decision. “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 “Save the Hudson Bill” was championed at the local level by legislators and executives from  Rockland, Ulster, Orange, Westchester, and Dutchess Counties, who gathered over 400,000 signatures on a petition urging immediate legislative action to prevent the release of dangerous chemicals into the river.
Legislator Harriet Cornell, a long time advocate for environmental protection and sustainability in Rockland, released the following statement praising the state government for their swift and effective work to prevent a major act of pollution.”Today, The People won and Big Greed and Big Lobbyists lost.

“In the 1960’s and 1970’s, when the Hudson River was so contaminated that there were stories of places that could have been lit on fire by a single match, a growing concern about the state of the overall planet led to local action.

“Decades of regulations thanks to grassroots efforts and the work of scientists, conservationists, committed leaders and everyday people resulted in significant improvements to our historic and beloved Hudson River.

“It’s baffling that a company believed it could release highly contaminated water from the shuttered Indian Point nuclear power plant into the Hudson.

“It’s even more surprising that the company would think The People would stand by and allow it.

“In recent years, other inappropriate uses of the river were also suggested and subsequently defeated by The People:

  • GE’s efforts to walk away from cleaning up the PCBs it dumped into the waterway. According to the EPA, PCBs have been demonstrated to cause cancer, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems.
  • United Water’s plan to tap the river and use it for a drinking water supply, despite the many pollutants in the river.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard’s plan to allow barges filled with Bakken crude oil to park in large offshore anchorages outside local riverfronts.

“We said no to each of these plans and were successful in our efforts.  I was pleased to sponsor earlier this year a resolution that called on the NY State Senate and Assembly and Gov. Hochul to ban any radioactive discharge into the river, along with strict fines in the event of violations. The Rockland County Legislature stood together in bipartisan support of the ban and our voices, along with those of so many in the public who decried this discharge effort, have been heard today.  Our majestic Hudson River serves so many as a place of recreation, scenic beauty, food source and economic resource. It is fitting that we choose to continue the fight to further restore it instead of opting for the easy, lazy and cheap option of dumping radioactive waste into this revered watercourse.”

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