PLYMOUTH – South Shore and Cape Cod residents are vowing to block a proposal that would dump up to 1.1 million gallons of radioactive wastewater from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station into Cape Cod Bay.
A rally was held on the Plymouth Town Hall Green on Monday before people voiced their concerns during a meeting of the state Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.
"At the end of the day, Cape Cod Bay is an established ocean sanctuary," said Leslie Danielson, of Save Our Bay.
"That fact in and of itself says they're violating the Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuaries Act that explicitly prohibits discharge of any commercial or industrial waste," said Jim Lampert, a lawyer and a member of the public interest group Pilgrim Watch.
Residents of the South Shore and Cape Cod argue that dumping processed radioactive water will severely harm the seafood industry, tourism, property values and public health.
"My little brother and I should be able to swim without worrying that stuff dumped in our ocean could hurt us or kill us," said 11-year-old Timothy Bennett Jr.
Holtec, the company overseeing the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, has not yet ruled out discharging the wastewater into Cape Cod Bay.
During Monday's meeting, Holtec representatives did agree to perform split-sample testing, which allows the company and an independent laboratory to conduct safety tests of the water first.
Some people, however, argued that the dumping proposal is flat-out illegal.
"If it is, in fact, illegal, we will not discharge the water," said David Noyes, Holtec's senior compliance manager. "If it is determined to be illegal, we will not discharge the water."
Those who oppose the plan hope Attorney General Maura Healey, who is running for governor, will intervene.
"She has the absolute power to do this," said Mark E. DeCristoforo, executive director of the Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative. "She has the absolute power to enforce the laws that Holtec agreed that they would follow when they signed the settlement agreement."
In an email, a Healey spokesperson said, "Our office will do everything possible to hold Holtec accountable and ensure public health and safety throughout this decommissioning process. We are prepared to take action to halt any violations of state and federal water discharge permits."
In 2020, the Attorney General's Office reached a settlement with Holtec to remedy shortcomings in the Nuclear Regulatory Committee's regulatory scheme and to ensure compliance with Massachusetts laws. The agreement secures environmental safety and financial protections for residents during the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. The settlement also includes compliance measures stricter than federal requirements.
In addition, Pilgrim's Clean Water Act permits prohibit the discharge of polluted spent-fuel pool water and wastewater generated by the decommissioning process into Cape Cod Bay.
Three members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation – Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. William Keating – have vowed to hold Holtec accountable.
The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was shut down permanently on May 31, 2019.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Protesters in Plymouth vow legal battle over Pilgrim wastewater plan