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Critical Decision Due for West Valley: Public Chance to Comment Ends September 8th

By Larry Brooks

On Tuesday,
September 1st, about 30 people collected on the sidewalk in front of the offices
of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), 726
Exchange St. at Larkin. Representing a diverse cross-section of area
organizations, the group stood shoulder to shoulder to demonstrate their
solidarity, to exhort citizens to comment, and to urge policymakers to decide now
to fully clean up the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site. Speakers included:
Todd Gates, Seneca Nation of Indians
Tribal Councilor; Bill Nowak, representing NYS Senator Antoine Thompson; Bob
Ciesielski, Sierra Club; Sister Sharon Goodremote, Buffalo Diocese Care for
Creation Committee; Brian Smith, Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Diane
D’Arrigo, Nuclear Information & Resource Service; and Lenore Lee Lambert,
League Of Women Voters Western New York, Citizens Task Force. The group brought
mops, buckets, and brooms and called themselves the “Cleanup Crew.”

As D’Arrigo
puts it, “There are more nuclear waste dumps in Western New York than the
rest of New York, and New York has more than the rest of the country.”

DArrigo points.png

(D’Ariggo points out site of landslide.)

New York
State’s largest nuclear waste site, West Valley, south of Buffalo, is in the
Cattaraugus Creek watershed that drains into Lake Erie. Right now, a
radioactive plume of groundwater is migrating from the site. The site is owned
by NYSERDA and also maintained by them in partnership with the U.S. Department
of Energy (DOE). DOE and NYSERDA have been studying long-term cleanup of the
site, and have released their findings in Draft Environmental Impact Studies

Of four
alternatives to the site’s cleanup plan, these two partners favor the Phased
Decision Making Alternative, which would demolish the process building in order
to excavate the source of the plume, cleanup the lagoons, and install barriers
for groundwater contamination. Essentially, this addresses only about 1 percent
of the total radioactivity on site. Decisions on the balance–almost 99 percent
of the radioactivity–would be addressed in Phase 2, spread out over 30 years.
For a more comprehensive explanation of this site, its status, and the process
for resolution, visit the Nuclear Information and Resource Service website

nowak speaks.png

(Bill Nowak, representing NYS Senator Antoine Thompson)

This coalition
of government leaders, environmental organizations, religious organizations,
civic organizations, and the Seneca Nation of Indians are opposed to this
approach for two major reasons. First, a state-funded study, The Real Costs
of Cleaning up Nuclear Waste: a Full Cost Accounting of Cleanup Options for the
West Valley Nuclear Waste Site,
concludes that leaving buried waste on site is both high risk
and very expensive, costing much more in future dollars than a full cleanup
now, and does not consider the extra cost if a catastrophic release occurs. 

Second, and more importantly, is the geographic instability of the site. Recent
heavy rain and flooding around Gowanda caused a landslide near to the site,
highlighting the site’s instability. For these reasons, this coalition favors
the Sitewide Removal Alternative, a full and immediate cleanup of the site. 34
members of the New York State Legislature, virtually all the local Western New
York delegation of the Senate and Assembly, signed and sent, in June, a letter
to the Secretary of DOE and the President of NYSERDA recommending sitewide
removal. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer also supports this position.

Todd Gates.png

(Todd Gates, Seneca Nation of Indians Tribal Councilor) 

September 8th
is the deadline for public comments. The group is hosting a phonathon on
Wednesday, September 2nd, urging people to call US DOE Secretary Steven Chu at
202.586.6210 and also NYSERDA President Frank Murray at 866.697.3732, ext. 3320,
and urge them to decide now to fully clean up the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site. 

Bob Ciesielski of Sierra Club, urges people to “call and tell them you’re
concerned about the water supply in the Great Lakes.” 

Brian Smith of the Citizens
Campaign for the Environment urges you to tell them, “We deserve a full
cleanup of West Valley now. We’re calling on the citizens to demand that these
agencies do this.”

Written by WCPerspective


Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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