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Voices heard: DEP takes testimony on Holtec's water disposal plan for Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

A highly anticipated state hearing last night in Plymouth drew some 100 people to give testimony — or witness the testimony of others — on the proposed release of water from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

The more than 1 million gallons of water would be treated to meet federal standards but would still contain radioactive material.

The majority of speakers called on the state to block the discharge, but several said releasing the water is the best option to clean up the waterfront parcel.

Five elected officials — local, state, and federal — spoke against the plan by Pilgrim owner Holtec International.

Jim Cantwell, state director for Sen. Ed Markey, read a statement from the senator.

“Today's hearing and the testimony that I suspect you'll hear tonight is further evidence that the stakeholders and communities do not consent to a discharge,” he said.

The Department of Environmental Protection hosted the hearing at Plymouth Town Hall to inform its final decision on a permit modification that could allow Holtec to release the water.

The agency issued a tentative denial of the permit last month, citing the state’s Ocean Sanctuaries Act as the primary basis for the decision. The law prohibits the dumping of industrial waste into a designated ocean sanctuary, including Cape Cod Bay.

As part of the plant decommissioning, Holtec is looking for a way to dispose of water from the nuclear process, including the reactor cavity and spent-fuel pool.

Local activists who oppose the discharge demonstrated outside Town Hall prior to the hearing.

Douglas Long of Orleans, a member of Cape Downwinders, was among them. He also testified during the hearing.

“How many kids are going to go into radioactive water?” he said from the podium. “How many parents are going to come to Cape Cod and tell their kids, ‘Wow, this is so exciting.’”

He and several others wore the blue T-shirts of Save Our Bay, a coalition of organizations working to oppose the discharge. Cape Downwinders is one of the key organizers of that group.

Among those who spoke in support of Holtec, engineer Charles Adey said he was part of the startup team for Pilgrim in 1971, working for General Electric.

“In reviewing the Holtec application, none of the proposed discharges would have any more impact on Cape Cod Bay than what has been going on for over 47 years of Pilgrim’s operation,” he said.

A final ruling is expected to follow the hearing.

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.