Politics, Post, Sustainability

My West Valley Demonstration Project SEIS Comments

I (Laura) took the above photo on the morning of April 22, 2018, from the road that you can take to drive right by the West Valley Demonstration Project in Cattaraugus County, New York. Those tanks are holding radioactive liquid nuclear waste in place while the state and federal governments decide what to do with them (not to mention the buried nuclear waste that also exists in places on the site). There are no waste facilities that have the capacity to accept this waste anywhere in the U.S., and transportation is dangerous anyway. Cleaning up this nuclear waste is an expensive, challenging problem that must be solved. The last public comment period on how to clean up the site ends on May 25, 2018.

So I decided to submit public comments on behalf of myself as a Citizen of the United States of America. Here they are:

 

May 22, 2018

Mr. Martin Krentz
West Valley Demonstration Project
U.S. Department of Energy
10282 Rock Springs Rd. AC-DOE
West Valley, NY 14171-9799
[email protected]

Re: Public Comment on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the West Valley Site

Dear Mr. Krentz:

I am a 33-year-old female environmental attorney living in the City of Buffalo, New York. I grew up in Eden, New York; moved to Hamburg, New York in middle school; studied Natural Resources (with a concentration in policy) at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; moved to Austin, Texas after graduation to be an AmeriCorps kindergarten literacy tutor for one year; studied at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin for three years; and practiced environmental law in Austin for four years. In 2015, I moved back to Western New York for family reasons, rented an apartment in the City of Buffalo, and earned a living through remote environmental consulting work (i.e. writing National Environmental Policy Act documents for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in Norfolk, Virginia; the Willamette River Valley, Oregon; and Coos Bay, Oregon). I currently work as the Grant Writer for People United for Sustainable Housing, Inc. (PUSH Buffalo). I am making these comments on behalf of myself as a Citizen of the United States of America.

Although the paragraph above summarizes my professional experience, in my spare time, I enjoy reading, writing, learning, and talking to people about the intersection of environmental justice, economic justice, and social justice, as well as educating people about the slightly obscure environmental law, policy, and science realm that I have been inhabiting for the past 14 years. I produce and host The Keeping Things Alive Podcast, which features my conversations with activists, business owners, healers, and anyone I cross paths with who is “keeping things alive in work and play” (here is a link to the episodes streaming online).

Last winter, I did a four-part collection of interviews on nuclear waste, with a particular focus on Western New York. As I learned more by listening to my guests, the West Valley Nuclear Facility quickly surfaced in my mind as the critical water quality, public health, and economic issue for the Western New York Region, as well as the entire Great Lakes Watershed/Bioregion, to get right. Here is a link to an article that links to all four Keeping Things Alive Podcast nuclear waste interviews.

I request that the following three Keeping Things Alive Podcast interviews get entered into the 2018 Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the West Valley Site Administrative Record because they provide relevant information to the cleanup decisions that are currently being considered by the U.S. Department of Energy and N.Y.S. Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA):

  1. Lynda Schneekloth
  2. Diane D’Arrigo
  3. Joanne Hameister

My comments are not going to be long or law-heavy because this issue is straightforward: a nuclear waste dumpsite sits on unstable ground adjacent to tributaries that flow into Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes, which contain 20% of the world’s available freshwater. If we want the City of Buffalo and upstate New York to remain resilient and come back from losing half of our population between 1950 and 2010 while industry left a toxic mess for someone else to deal with, the West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project must be cleaned up in full.

As many other comments have stated (and are backed up with scientific studies), the West Valley site sits on unstable shale formations, which shift and collapse and move around, especially in response to large precipitation events. Precipitation events are becoming more intense and frequent as time marches on, and scientists predict that this trend will continue (check out the latest scientific reports on climate change impacts in upstate New York). An accident anywhere on the West Valley site has the potential to contaminate a tributary that flows into Lake Erie, right next to Erie County’s water supply intake. No one in the Lake Erie watershed (both in the United States and Canada) can afford a large-scale nuclear waste disaster on Lake Erie. Water is life.

The West Valley Demonstration Site must be fully cleaned up for economic and societal reasons as well. Although full cleanup is the most expensive option currently on the table, the cost of cleaning up a nuclear waste disaster in Lake Erie would be astronomical (not to mention difficult, emotional, and politically terrible). Food markets would be negatively affected. Agriculture would suffer. Tourism (boating, fishing, kayaking, concerts by the water, beaches, historical tours, etc.) would close down. Real estate development along the waterfront (or possibly the entire City of Buffalo) would come to a halt. All of the progressive social justice work being done by local nonprofits and foundations would be wiped out. People would get sick and die and be displaced because of radioactive water, land, and even air contamination. The West Valley Demonstration Site must be fully cleaned up.

Lastly, I want tell a story about my friend from high school – she and her fiancée want to buy a large piece of land in the New York Southerntier so they can live off of it as homesteaders. But she has decided not to purchase land anywhere near or downstream of the West Valley Demonstration Project because as she has become more educated on the site history and current risks, she does not accept the risks of growing and consuming radioactive plants, not to mention the constant threat of being on the front lines of a large-scale nuclear waste disaster. Cattaraugus County has lost a potential tax-paying landowner because of the West Valley Demonstration Project and its current risks.

In sum, I request that the U.S. Department of Energy and NYSERDA work together and pull together as many resources as possible to efficiently and comprehensively clean up the West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project Site so it is no longer a threat to the inhabitants of the Great Lakes Watershed.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,
Laura M. Evans

 

 

If you read through my comments and want to submit your own by May 25, 2018, here is a link with all of the instructions.