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Duxbury resident files notice of intent to sue over Pilgrim, invoking Endangered Species Act

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Courtesy of Entergy
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A local resident has filed a notice of intent to sue the federal government under the Endangered Species Act to prevent the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station from discharging radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay.

While many activists are looking to state law for a way to stop Pilgrim, Sheila Lynch-Benttinen of Duxbury says she has a different plan.

Last week, she gave the required 60-day notice that she is considering a lawsuit against the federal government over the possible effect of radioactive water on critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.

“If local activists can't stop it, if the attorney general can't stop it, perhaps the Endangered Species Act can stop it,” she said.

The Endangered Species Act should apply because the water would be released into the whales’ habitat, she said.

Pilgrim owner Holtec, which is decommissioning the closed plant, is weighing its options for how to dispose of more than a million gallons of water from various parts of the facility, including the pool used to submerge spent nuclear fuel rods.

The company says the water will be filtered and treated to meet all legal requirements.

But Lynch-Benttinen contends that the Endangered Species Act should protect right whales from contaminated water, just as it does from certain lobstering and shipping activity.

“For everyone that's involved in saving the right whale to let Holtec discharge a million-plus gallons of radioactive waste, right into their habitat, shouldn't be allowed,” she said.

Her letter to federal agencies is a required step if she decides to sue.

It indicates that she may file a lawsuit against the secretary of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as against NOAA Fisheries (an informal name for the National Marine Fisheries Service), an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“A judge can say, ‘You have to protect this endangered species. You're not allowed to discharge,’” she said. “Or the federal agency can say, … ‘This is not a proper activity for protecting a critically endangered species.’”

Her goal would be to compel the agencies to prevent the discharge of water or conduct an in-depth study first, she said.

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.