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Pollutants found in Pilgrim nuclear water mean discharge into Cape Cod Bay is prohibited — for now

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Plymouth Area Community Access Television
David Noyes, a compliance manager with Holtec Decommissioning International, represented Holtec at Monday's meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.

New testing of water inside the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station indicates that it contains non-nuclear pollutants.

Opponents of the potential discharge of radioactive water from Pilgrim into Cape Cod Bay have hoped that testing would reveal non-nuclear pollutants, because it means the plant’s environmental permits prohibit any dumping of the water in the near term.

Radiological contamination, in contrast, is controlled by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which could allow Pilgrim owner Holtec to discharge the water if it meets federal limits for radiation exposure.

The company plans to filter the water before any potential discharge, so the presence of non-nuclear pollutants could be temporary.

Representatives of Holtec and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection discussed the test results Monday during a meeting of the state’s Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.

Seth Pickering, DEP deputy regional director, said Holtec must comply with its environmental permits, “which plainly prohibit the discharge of pollutants in spent nuclear-fuel pool water and other decommissioning-related wastewater.”

Much of the roughly one million gallons Holtec is looking to dispose of would come from a cooling pool for spent nuclear fuel rods.

David Noyes, a compliance manager with Holtec subsidiary Holtec Decommissioning International, spoke on the company’s behalf Monday. He said the water will be filtered to comply with environmental permits before any potential discharge into Cape Cod Bay.

Holtec is still considering other disposal options and plans to discuss its “potential decisions” later this year, he said.

Holtec gave a presentation of the recent test results to DEP and the Department of Public Health in a recent meeting, Pickering said. The state has yet to receive a copy of the full results, he said.

Local activists fighting the potential release of radioactive water say the state should be doing its own testing.

Noyes said Holtec is willing to provide “split samples” for testing. That means water samples would be divided into two containers, so the state could run its own tests on the same samples as Holtec.

It’s unclear whether the state will be able to supervise the sample collection or take its own samples, something residents have demanded.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.