How We’ll Stop Radioactive Waste Dumping in the Hudson River

Published Apr 20, 2023


Clean Water

Legislators and Governor Hochul must prevent Holtec from dumping up to 1 million gallons of radioactive wastewater in the Hudson River.

Legislators and Governor Hochul must prevent Holtec from dumping up to 1 million gallons of radioactive wastewater in the Hudson River.

Update (August 22, 2023): Victory! In late August, Governor Kathy Hochul signed the “Save the Hudson” bill. This bill bans decommissioning nuclear plants from dumping radioactive waste in the Hudson River.

Food & Water Watch helmed a powerful campaign to stop a proposed dump and future ones like it. In a few short months, we helped to gather the support of 138 groups and nearly 500,000 people (we detail this campaign in the article below).

The signing of “Save the Hudson” protects the river and neighboring communities from toxic waste that has no place in our water. This is a tremendous win for people over polluters; communities over corporations.

See previous updates to this article.

The Hudson River is one of New York’s natural wonders; a treasure that should be protected and preserved. It’s a source of drinking water for more than 100,000 New Yorkers and a beloved site of fishing and swimming for many. But right now, one company threatens to poison the river with radioactive waste.

Holtec International is in charge of decommissioning the nuclear Indian Point Energy Center. As part of its decommissioning plan, Holtec has proposed dumping up to one million gallons of radioactive wastewater into the Hudson as early as this August.

We have the opportunity to stop this outrageous and dangerous proposal. Right now, the State Legislature is considering measures to ban the dumping of radioactive materials into state waters. New York must pass this law as soon as possible to prevent Holtec from offloading its toxic waste into the river.

Holtec Tried to Slip Past Community Input and Start Dumping Months Early

Since Holtec announced plans to dump radioactive waste into the Hudson, we’ve mobilized with local activists to fight it. In four months, thirty-one local governments, including three counties, have passed resolutions against the dumping. 

We know that dumping is totally unnecessary. The radioactive waste could remain on-site at Indian Point to naturally and safely break down. Holtec, however, wants to put their shareholders over local residents and treat the Hudson as dumping grounds for their toxic waste.

In April, Holtec announced plans to start unloading the waste into the Hudson in May, moving up its timeline by several months. This was a blatant attempt to exclude community voices and preempt the proposed legislation that would restrict dumping.

As New York Senators wrote in April, Holtec has kept communities in the dark and propelled even more distrust and opposition. The company has not disclosed what’s in the water and even had a recent federal violation in the treatment system at Indian Point.

New Yorkers: Tell Governor Hochul to stop Holtec from dumping radioactive waste in the Hudson River!

Later that month, Holtec canceled its May plans, but still expects to dump its waste into the Hudson later this year. 

The Hudson and Its Communities Have Already Suffered Too Much Pollution

The wastewater from Indian Point’s spent fuel pools includes several contaminants, notably tritium. This toxic and radioactive isotope can lead to higher rates of cancer if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. It poses significant threats to human health, as well as to aquatic life in the Hudson River.

And this threat is just the latest after decades of corporate abuse of the Hudson. In the mid-20th century, General Electric manufacturing plants unloaded more than a million pounds of toxic, carcinogenic PCBs into the river. 

This poisoned the Hudson’s ecosystems and led to state warnings to avoid eating fish caught in its waters. Now, 200 miles of the river make up one of the largest toxic Superfund sites in our country.

The Hudson has been further targeted by polluters, from oil barges to a new fracked gas plant. An immense amount of grassroots opposition worked to stop these proposals. But the river and the health of its communities are still in danger. 

Holtec Is After a Quick Buck, Not Community Health and Safety

When it bought Indian Point in 2019, Holtec International had never decommissioned a nuclear facility before. Yet, the company seems convinced it can do the job decades earlier than planned, while cutting cleanup costs by millions of dollars. Advocates and nuclear experts are concerned that Holtec can’t decommission safely and has underestimated the costs. 

The Indian Point project is just the latest installment in the company’s sketchy history. For instance, as Fortune reported, a Tennessee Valley Authority official pleaded guilty to accepting a bribe from Holtec in 2007. The company has also run into trouble with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for safety problems.

This history just shows that Holtec is more concerned with quick profits than ensuring public health and safety. 

We Must Stop Holtec and Protect Our Communities

Corporations must not be allowed to treat our Hudson River as dumping grounds for their toxic waste. Instead of allowing private companies to pollute our waterways, we should be restoring the iconic Hudson River and protecting local communities.

Food & Water Watch has been working over the past four months to do just that. We formed the Stop Holtec coalition with over 100 other organizations, which in a short span of time has passed over 30 municipal resolutions throughout the Hudson Valley. 

Our Hudson Valley Volunteer Leader Tara Vamos joined activists and legislators in Ulster County to call on Governor Hochul to stop Holtec’s dumping.

We lobbied lawmakers like Senator Schumer and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to help us stop Holtec. We’ve been tabling and petitioning to get the word out and make sure others can join us in confronting Governor Hochul and key stakeholders on the issue. And we’ve been phonebanking and rallying nonstop.

Now, a Save the Hudson bill is moving through the State Senate and Assembly. This bill would prevent radioactive waste from being dumped in the Hudson River. 

Governor Hochul must support and sign this legislation and direct her state agencies to prevent any dumping from happening. With the legislature, Hochul must put the Hudson River and the public health of residents over Holtec’s shareholders.

Update (June 21, 2023): Yesterday, the New York State Assembly passed the Save the Hudson bill, banning decommissioning nuclear plants from dumping their radioactive waste in the Hudson River.

The Senate version of the bill passed unanimously on June 9, thanks to fierce opposition to the plans. Three days before that, Food & Water Watch rallied with allies in Albany, demanding Governor Hochul’s support. 

There, we delivered 30 local government resolutions and over 444,000 signatures opposing Holtec’s dump. And yesterday morning, we returned to Albany with allies and lawmakers to support the Save the Hudson bill. 

Now, the bill is headed for Governor Hochul’s desk for signature. Hochul has been silent on this issue for months, and it’s time for her to decisively support people over polluters. We’re calling on her to sign the “Save the Hudson” bill into law immediately.

New Yorkers: Urge Governor Hochul to sign the Save the Hudson bill!

Time to face it —~it’s people or plastics.~We can’t have both.

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