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Activists ask Healey to seek court order blocking release of radioactive water


Local activists trying to block the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station from releasing radioactive water are calling on state and federal officials to do more.

The Save Our Bay coalition plans to ask state Attorney General Maura Healey, who is running for governor, to seek a preliminary injunction blocking discharge of the water into Cape Cod Bay, according to Diane Turco, a member of the coalition’s steering committee.

“The federal government appears to be unable to take steps to protect our communities,” she said. “So we have to look to the state to step up now.”

The group has requested details from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the penalties that Pilgrim owner Holtec could face if the company releases water in violation of its permit.

The relevant permit is issued jointly by state and federal authorities as part of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

The EPA has previously said that releasing pollutants from the nuclear plant’s cooling pool would violate the permit, though owner Holtec could apply for a new permit.

Turco said residents are worried that Holtec will decide it’s easier and cheaper to pay a fine than truck the water to a disposal facility out of state.

“Their incentive is to get out of there quick, because then their pockets will be full,” she said. “So getting rid of this water will advance the decommissioning process very quickly.”

Save Our Bay asked the EPA to issue a public letter to Holtec laying out how releasing the water would violate the permit, specific penalties, and how penalties would increase if the company derives economic benefit from violating EPA rules.

The group also asked that if Holtec applies for a new permit, EPA provide immediate notice to the public and guarantee a public hearing.

Holtec is decommissioning the closed nuclear plant. As part of that work, the company is looking for a way to dispose of more than a million gallons of water.

Much of the water comes from the pool used to cool spent nuclear fuel. It contains radionuclides and other pollutants.

Holtec has said the water will be filtered and treated to meet government standards for both potential radiation exposure and non-nuclear contaminants.

The Save Our Bay steering committee includes members of local organizations Pilgrim Watch, Cape Downwinders, the Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative, and the Plymouth League of Women Voters.

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.