Irradiated water leaking into the ground and into the Hudson River from the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants has raised concerns that PCBS could also be escaping into the river. The Buchanan based plant owned by Entergy, is situated on the banks of the Hudson River, the country’s largest superfund site for PCB cleanup.
According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the oversight agency for the plants, PCBS (Polychlorinated Biphenyls) were found years ago at the oldest Indian Point unit, Unit 1, which closed in 1974. The PCBS were reportedly treated and removed years later. Neil Sheehan of the NRC said that they have been concerned that PCBS could now show up in the groundwater. “If they [Entergy] were to pump out the groundwater, check contamination levels and then do a controlled release to the river, they could be releasing PCBS,” explained Sheehan. “That’s something the [plant] site is going to have to work on. Unit 1 is an old plant and the PCB issue has been raised before.”
Phil Musegaas, policy analyst with the environmental group Riverkeeper, studied test results from monitoring wells at Indian Point since leaks were announced a year and a half ago. “I have not seen anything that suggests there are PCBS in the ground water, assuming they are testing the water properly,” said Musegaas. “But that’s really surprising. I would be amazed if there weren’t any PCBS there.”
Discovering two large underground reservoirs amassed over years of leaking irradiated water beneath Unit 1 and Unit 2 prompted Entergy to test for PCBS.
“We haven’t seen any PCBS in the water we are testing,” said Jim Steets, spokesperson for Entergy. Steets referred to water sampled from the 54 monitoring wells at the plant. “Also no PCBS have been found from the two underground plumes. Had we seen PCBS in our samples, that would indicate a direct tie to the Unit 1 fuel pool, which is where we think the leaks are coming from.” The 40-foot-deep pool stores used radioactive fuel assemblies.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), who is also testing ground water at the plant, allows Entergy to dump prescribed amounts of effluent into the Hudson River every year, but no amount of PCBS are allowed to be released into the river. Should PCBS be discovered in the groundwater and in the river, Entergy’s remediation strategy would change and be more costly. Kimberly Chupa, spokesperson for the DEC, said “We would examine appropriate options for remediation if PCBS were to be found.”