In a move intended to protect the waters, shorelines, and communities along the Hudson River, Senate Bill S6893 was passed into law almost two months after it passed the New York State Assembly.
Violations of this new environmental law are intended to dissuade and penalize offenders with an incremental fine structure of $37,500 for the first day of radioactive water discharge, $75,000 for the second day, and $150,000 for each day thereafter.
The passing of the law is a bold move by state legislators to prevent the harmful release of radioactive water from decommissioned facilities, including discharge from the closed nuclear power plant at Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan.
State Action for Federal Jurisdiction
While all waters in the domestic United States are governed by the Clean Water Act, local legislators urged state officials to consider a state-level law that would allow them to more closely regulate and monitor the illegal dumping of hazardous wastewater into the Hudson River–a watershed that provides drinking water for 100,000 citizens in seven communities.
On February 24th, the bill’s original sponsors, 95th District Assemblywoman Dana Levenberg and New York State Senator Pete Harckham, announced their plans to ban hazardous radioactive materials dumping in the Hudson River and its estuaries. Their proposal was seen as a reactionary step against toxic wastewater being released at Indian Point.
“No person, corporation or government has the right to recklessly pollute New York State’s waters,” said Harckham at the time. “The mere idea that this is being contemplated is troubling. While the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant is a complex issue, there can be no rationale for releasing radioactive waste into the Hudson.”
Levenberg shared Harckham’s concerns about unregulated dumping.
“Too much is still unknown about the possible impacts of discharging radioactive waste into our waterways,” Levenberg stated. “We wouldn’t want people to feel inhibited in their recreation or in moving to our communities because of the stigma of radioactive wastewater. And ultimately, the State of New York should have control over what is released into our waterways.”
The Senate unanimously passed Bill S6893 on June 9th, while A7208-Levenberg passed the New York State Assembly on June 20th.
Focused on Environmental Sustainability
Holtec International, the current owner of Indian Point Energy Center, is in charge of operations to decommission the 60-year-old nuclear facility. Earlier this year, the company was pressured by local officials and community members to halt its plans to release 1 million gallons of wastewater into the Hudson River by August.
Radioactive water is typically a byproduct of cooling pools for radioactive rods. According to Holtec, their plans for “discharging” the water would have been within federal and state law and in line with limits prescribed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As a result of local pressure, Holtec announced they would delay their intended dumping schedule. A new release date has not been disclosed.
With Gov. Hochul signing the bill into law, companies such as Holtec will face more stringent regulation and monitoring of wastewater dumping activities. When speaking of the bill’s impact on communities along the Hudson River Estuary and throughout the state, Gov. Hochul was optimistic.
The Hudson River is one of New York’s landmark natural treasures. […] My administration remains committed to protectving the economic vitality of the region and working closely with local communities who have advocated so passionately for this cause.