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“Entergy facing lawsuit over radiation leak” by Rita J. King

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“Riverkeeper is putting Entergy Nuclear Northeast on notice that a lawsuit is
coming.

Environmental watchdog Riverkeeper celebrated its 40th anniversary by
announcing its intent to sue Entergy Nuclear Northeast for failing to notify the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within 24 hours of discovering a leak of radiation that may be entering the Hudson River.

The announcement was made yesterday morning (Tuesday) at Riverkeeper’s
Tarrytown offices under a sunny sky and a canopy of fresh spring leaves.

Riverkeeper is claiming Entergy Nuclear Northeast, owner and operator of
Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan, violated the Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), a federal statute which requires
operators of industrial facilities to notify the (EPA) when they discover a
leak of hazardous substances, such as radioactive isotopes, from their facility.

Alex Matthiessen, Riverkeeper’s president, said eight months has passed since the discovery of a radioactive leak from the spent fuel rod pool at Indian Point 2, and there’s “no evidence” that the utility has contacted EPA yet.

EPA, he said, would be responsible for implementing a remediation plan that
would include the public.

Croton residents Gary Shaw and Charlie Kane are co-plaintiffs in the pending
litigation. Under the citizen suit provisions of RCRA, Riverkeeper had to notify the defendant 60 days prior to filing suit.

Shaw, a resident of Croton, combs the shores of the Hudson River with his wife, an artist, searching for natural materials, such as driftwood.

“I have joined with Riverkeeper and Charlie Kane in this action,” explained Shaw, “because I am concerned about the on-going release of elements, such as strontium-90, into the Hudson River that borders Croton. My wife is an artist whose work these days consists largely of wood sculptures from Hudson River driftwood. I am concerned that with the collecting and carving she does, that she will be exposed to elements contaminated by radioactive toxins, especially when carving, which creates very small.particles.”

Kane, a lifetime fisherman on the Hudson River, has joined Riverkeeper due to his “growing concerns over the impacts of radioactive waste on the fish population,” according to a Riverkeeper press release.

“With great sadness, public perception, public monies, and the work of many are now jeopardized by the leak of radioactive pollutants from the Indian Point nuclear plant into the Hudson River,” commented Kane. “This great resource for visitors to the Hudson Valley, commercial and recreational fishing, boating and swimming, among other activities we enjoy, has been degraded by the failure of Entergy to perform their due diligence in keeping pollutants of any kind from entering the Hudson River.”

“This case stands at the very heart of Riverkeeper’s 40-year mission to protect the Hudson River and the watershed from polluters who put financial profit over the health and safety of citizens and our environment,” said Matthiessen.

“For four decades, we have used the law to force violators to clean up their act, and as we embark on the next 40 years we will continue to do so. The future of the Hudson River and the Hudson Valley depends on it.”

Matthiessen admitted Riverkeeper can’t be sure that the radioactive leak exceeds federally mandated standards for allowable discharge into the Hudson River, but emphasizes that part of the reason for the lawsuit is the mystery surrounding the leaks and Entergy’s “half-hearted” attempt to uncover the facts surrounding a leak discovered on August 26, 2005 during an excavation project.

A meeting held at Crystal Bay in Peekskill two weeks ago drew a standing-room-only crowd as residents questioned the veracity of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC) and Entergy’s repeat claim that no threat to public health and safety exists despite an admission that the utility and regulatory agency are both in the dark about the extent, number and volume of actual and possible leaks at Indian Point.

Indian Point spokesman Jim Steets brushed off the press conference as “trivial.”

“I was expecting more out of it,” Steets remarked.

Steets claimed Entergy Nuclear Northeast notified NRC and the Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) immediately upon discovering the leak. He
insisted it was not mandatory that Entergy contact EPA.

“DEC issues permits for discharges into and use of the river,” he said. “It seems that this is something that Riverkeeper would want-local control over our destiny.”

Riverkeeper is also incensed that it took NRC and Entergy more than 20 days
to notify elected officials and the public of the leak, which contains levels of tritium, strontium-90, and cesium 137 – among other dangerous radioactive isotopes. Entergy received confirmation of the presence of cesium-137 and strontium-90 in the leaking water on October 24, 2005.

“The law is very clear regarding the release of hazardous substances and the notification process – a polluter must notify the EPA within 24 hours of discovery,” noted Phillip Musegaas, policy analyst at Riverkeeper. While Entergy may have broken public trust and confidence a long time ago, here they’ve broken the law. We are fully prepared to seek enforcement of the regulation by the courts, to make sure the leak is stopped and the environmental damage addressed.”

On March 21, the NRC and Entergy announced strontium-90 had been discovered
in wells near the Hudson River at levels three times higher than EPA allowable levels. Entergy and the NRC have confirmed on repeated occasions that a large plume of contaminated groundwater coming from the IP2 spent fuel pool is leaching toxic radioactive isotopes into the Hudson River. At the Crystal Bay meeting, NRC and Entergy officials stressed the idea that the river dilutes the concentration of radiation-if the leak makes it that far.

“Our local communities need to be assured that the corporation that owns and operates Indian Point is doing everything possible to stop and clean up this radioactive plume,” added Lisa Rainwater, Indian Point campaign director. “We also need to know that Entergy is following the letter of the law – anything less suggests they are failing to be good, responsible, corporate neighbors to the local community. In failing to follow federal notification regulations, they’re failing the communities that use the Hudson River to recreate and that rely on clean water for their families.”

Students at the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic will be working on the case as part of an ongoing partnership with Riverkeeper.”

Originally published in North County News

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