Putnam Rejects Call to Oppose Indian Point Discharge

Instead asks federal officials for safety pledge 

On Tuesday (April 4), as Holtec International announced plans to release radioactive wastewater next month from the former Indian Point nuclear plant into the Hudson River, the Putnam County Legislature urged federal officials to guarantee the safety of the discharges but did not call for an outright ban. 

Meeting in Carmel, with one member absent, the legislators voted 8-0 for a resolution declaring that a release of radioactive water from spent-fuel pools “must not cause any detrimental environmental impact to the river” or “compromise the health or safety of those who use” it. 

The resolution also urged Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican whose district includes much of Putnam County and Indian Point, and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, to “obtain assurances” from the Environmental Protection Agency and Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the agencies will protect the public.

Both the legislative Health-Social-Educational-Environmental Committee and the full Legislature rejected a blunter measure proposed by Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, that denounced the release.

It declared that Putnam “strongly opposes the plan to release over a million gallons of contaminated water into the Hudson,” and supports legislation in the state Legislature to ban discharges into any state waterway. 

Unlike the Health-Environment Committee, which declined to consider Montgomery’s proposal, the full Legislature debated it before turning it down. Only William Gouldman, a Republican who represents the rest of Putnam Valley, joined Montgomery in supporting her measure, which resembles those adopted by several other Hudson Valley counties or municipalities, including Cold Spring on Wednesday (April 5).

Although she joined her colleagues in unanimously approving the committee-endorsed resolution, Montgomery said she considered it inadequate. It reads: “ ‘Go ahead and discharge into the river as long as it’s safe,’” she claimed. Terming the wastewater “radioactive poison,” Montgomery argued that her draft resolution more forcefully says: “‘Do not discharge the water into the Hudson.’” 

(On Wednesday, after learning of Holtec’s new announcement, Montgomery said “it’s awful. And they’re bullies.”)

Gouldman advocated continued storage of the wastewater until scientists reach consensus on its safe disposal. “Don’t put it in the Hudson River,” he emphasized, sounding skeptical about federal responses to environmental crises. “Time and time again, the federal government gives assurances that turn out not to be true,” he said.

But Legislator Amy Sayegh, who chairs the Health-Environment Committee, criticized the measure that Montgomery and Gouldman backed. “Of course we’re against” channeling radioactive material into the Hudson, she said. “No one is for it.” However, she said, “just saying that we disagree, that we don’t want it released, is not going to do anything.” By comparison, Sayegh contended, in her preferred resolution, already unanimously passed that night, “we’re asking for action” by federal authorities.

Sayegh also predicted that if the state Assembly and Senate enact the bill banning all radioactive discharges into state waterways, the result would be the closure of all nuclear power plants in New York and the banning of X-ray machines and related medical equipment — “anything that emits radiation.” 

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Garrison resident Paula Clair expressed gratitude that the legislators had passed an Indian Point resolution and regrets that, in her opinion, it lacked sufficient clout. “You’re going to have carcinogenic material getting into the Hudson. It’s going to affect us,” she said. “It’s not a political issue. It’s a health and safety issue.”

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