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West Valley Cleanup

(photo: Artvoice)

Deadline for public comment on West Valley cleanup approaches

This Tuesday, about 30 people collected on the sidewalk in front of the local office of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Representing a diverse cross-section of area organizations, the group stood shoulder to shoulder to demonstrate their solidarity, to exhort citizens to comment, and to urge policymakers to decide now to fully clean up the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site.

Speakers included: Todd Gates, Seneca Nation of Indians Tribal Councilor; Bill Nowak, representing New York State Senator Antoine Thompson; Bob Ciesielski, Sierra Club; Sister Sharon Goodremote, Buffalo Diocese Care for Creation Committee; Brian Smith, Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Diane D’Arrigo, Nuclear Information & Resource Service; and Lenore Lee Lambert, League of Women Voters Western New York’s Citizens Task Force.

The group brought mops, buckets, and brooms and called themselves the “Cleanup Crew.”

New York State’s largest nuclear waste site, West Valley, south of Buffalo, is in the Cattaraugus Creek watershed which drains into Lake Erie. Right now, a radioactive plume of groundwater is migrating from the site. The site is owned by NYSERDA, in partnership with the US Department of Energy. DOE and NYSERDA have been studying long-term cleanup of the site and have released their findings in draft environmental impact studies. Of four alternatives to the site’s cleanup plan, they favor the “phased decision making alternative,” which would essentially address only about one percent of the total radioactivity on site. Decisions on the balance—almost 99 percent of the radioactivity—would be addressed in phase two, spread out over 30 years.

(For a more comprehensive explanation of this site, its status, and the process for resolution, visit here.)

This coalition is opposed to this approach for two major reasons. First, a state-funded study concludes that leaving buried waste on site is both high risk and very expensive, costing much more in future dollars than a full cleanup now, and does not consider the extra cost if a catastrophic release occurs. Second, and more importantly, is the geographic instability of the site. Recent heavy rain and flooding caused a landslide near to the site highlighting how unstable the site really is. The coalition favors the “sitewide removal alternative,” a full and immediate cleanup of the site. Virtually all the local Western New York delegation of the New York State Legislature as well as US Senators Schumer and Gillibrand also support this position.

September 8 is the deadline for public comments on the DEIS. The group is hosting a phonathon on Wednesday, September 2, urging people to call US DOE Secretary Steven Chu (202-586-6210, and NYSERDA President Frank Murray (866-697-3732 extension 3320,, and urge them to decide now to fully clean up the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site.

larry brooks

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