you're reading...
Environment, Environmental Issues, Heather Flournoy, Katonah, South Salem, Sustainability, water contamination, Westchester County

Local Residents Outraged About Release of Radioactive Steam over Hudson Valley

Two days after the fact, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission learned that an estimated 600,000 gallons of boiling, radioactive water turned to steam and was released over the lower Hudson Valley in November, 2009,  as a result of a malfunction that caused Westchester County’s Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant to be shut down.  Mired in slow response, vague details and insufficient health impact information, residents of Katonah, South Salem and Somers respond with outrage to a report on an investigation into the  incident published  January 8th in the Daily News.

The Daily reports, “NRC inspectors are still trying to figure out what really happened. A report on the incident is expected at the end of the month….The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not have safe levels set for inhaling tritium.”

Here are responses from local residents to the report:

But it’s OK, according to the NRC: “Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said the release valves “were intentionally opened (as per plant procedures) as part of the shutdown.”…. “Sheehan stressed that the level of a radioactive isotope tritium in the steam was below the allowable federal levels for drinking water. The News, however, reported that the release of tritium was not in drinking water but in escaped steam which is inhaled through the lungs.”

Just another example of how the NRC has made it clear that their highest priority is to keep their regulatory charges profitable, and their agency relevant. A year or two ago at a public hearing regarding the extension of Indian Point’s license, after waiting in a long line of equally agitated citizens, I got to make my point to their faces. I worked in the engineering industry for fourteen years. No amount of engineering expertise can guarantee there will be zero malfunctions, and the NRC and their clients are being disingenuous when they tell us otherwise. I got no response – they are obliged to listen only. We know an airliner will come down occasionally; a petrochemical plant will blow up, and hard drives fail. The difference here is that failure can wreak a catastrophe of such scale that it is no longer possible to speak in terms of net benefits. That’s why nuclear power plants are essentially uninsurable, and can only operate with the risk passed to the public via the Price-Anderson Act .

Isn’t it ironic that public health insurance, which may protect us when we fall ill of leukemia from radiation exposure, is deemed by detractors as an excessive intervention by the government in the private economy, but socializing the risk of the Nuclear industry that creates these hazards is OK? The nuclear exposure from the steam release may be “below the allowable limits”, but the cynicism is off the scale. –Dan

Dan Welsh of South Salem way is currently doing penance for a previous career selling several hundred thousand tons of polyester production capacity to the Chinese. His sentence is sitting on the Lewisboro Town Board, attempting to promote sustainability measures to same in the midst of the worst economy in decades, in one of the most politically charged towns in the county. Your sympathies are appreciated.


Where can I find data quantifying the range of acceptable levels of tritium to drink or inhale?  Also, once airborne, how long do these particulates stay suspended prior to settling on land, and water?

I felt the same kind of anger when Guiliani decided to spray the boroughs with malythian for West Nile Virus.  I had no choice about this happening over my neighborhood.  Although the advice for residents was to keep their windows shut for several hours, many residents had no air-conditioning and fans are useless with shut windows during a hot summer evening.  Needless to say, many NYC residents (my young developing children, to name three) built-up a whole lot of toxins during those sprayings.

When it comes to environmental health, we need to be stronger as a community. We need to join together and voice our disapproval whether it be from nuclear power plants spewing toxic chemicals into the air; coal firing plants and chlorine plants spewing mercury vapor into the air, which later mix with water vapor to become methyl-mercury polluting the fish, plants and animals we eat or the needless spraying of pesticides because 2 people were afflicted with West Nile Virus.

To quote Bill Moyers, “If you are not outraged, you aren’t paying attention”!-Lisa

Lisa Silver is co-founder of Citizens for a Sustainable Lewisboro.


This effects us all and the hue and cry should reach all the way to Washington!

Herb Oringel, Chair, Energy Advisory Panel, Town of Somers

Here is a link to the description of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster which happened under similar circumstances with a valve not shutting off.

Please comment below after the descriptive tags for this article. Post this article to your Facebook page, email it to friends, get feedback!

Get Involved! Join the local green conversation, scheming and real gatherings. Follow KatonahGreen on

Facebook Page
Meetup Group


Special Announcement: On January 23rd take advantage of a very special opportunity to learn directly from David Mathison, renowned new media consultant, former VP of Reuter’s News Agency and author of Be The Media in a special seminar arranged by Katonah Green and Really Social Strategies at the Katonah Library. Environmental activists need to learn how to REALLY leverage social media to spread the message and create behavioral change. We have the power in our hands. Register now.

About Heather Flournoy

I am a writer, social media connoisseur, environmentalist and professional marketer. My personal blog is and my professional website is I love people's stories, and a passionate cultivator of connections, both for myself and helping others to connect. Tell me who you are, what your story is, and I'll tell you who you should talk to. In my own view, I know some of the most interesting, colorful and profound people in the world. You know who you are. Besides all the above, I am proud to say I am a working class single mother who raised a beautiful daughter. I connect deeply with animals, especially horses. I love music, coffee shops, farmer's markets, growing my own food, sustainable agriculture, broad thinkers, the healing arts, and dive diners.


4 thoughts on “Local Residents Outraged About Release of Radioactive Steam over Hudson Valley

  1. Thx for the Indian Point heads up. Crazy. Really sorry I’ll miss Dave Mathison again. Will be out of town 23rd. So I may be a moron but I have no idea how to sign up a a fan/friend on your Facebook page. Any pointers?

    Posted by annie | January 12, 2010, 8:54 am
  2. Indian Point has never been safe, and is getting more dangerous by the day.

    A 600,000 gallon release of radio active steam is NOT ACCEPTABLE, regardless of the claims / lies that it was below the danger level for drinking water.

    The Mother’s Milk Project proves that IP is dangerous, that radio activity gets into nursing mother’s milk, and into the innocent rapidly developing babies at the breast.

    Clearly the NRC, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is controled by the nuclear industry and is interested in protecting the profits of that industry, far more than our health and safety.

    Have you been to It’s a great photo essay about Chernobyl.

    I encourage you to watch this short video on the health affects from Chernobyl:

    While IP may be significantly different than the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant that blew up April 26, 1986 and left the region a Ghost Town for the next 900 or so years, IP is still an unacceptable risk.

    Did you know that your homeowner’s insurance policy has an EXCLUSION clause for nuclear accidents. Yes, the insurance industry, which specializes in Risk Management, has deemed Nuclear to be too great a risk for them to insure.

    It’s time for us to make banding together, to get very organized, and force the perminent shut down of IP, and to require Entergy to bare 100% of the cost with NO taxpayer bailout. They bought it by choice. IF they fail to cover all the cost, including the cost of ‘securing’ the spent fuel and any other radio active elements of the facility, then that should be cause for us to never allow another nuclear facility anywhere in the world.

    I will bring to the January 23rd meeting at the Katonah Library a copy of Nuclear Power Is NOT the Answer, by Dr. Helen Caldicott, to loan out, to be circulated among people willing to band together to get IP shut down, totally at Entergy’s expense.

    John Crockett

    Posted by John Crockett | January 12, 2010, 11:37 am
  3. Our organization founded in 2006 has been working to shut down Indian Point by creating a national coalition of support, in the fashion, film and green business community. We’re organizing a large rally to celebrate green lighting in Manhattan this summer. LEDs are a solution to old and dangerous facilities like Indian Point, because LEDs can, in theory, reduce electrical consumption worldwide by 20 percent because of their extreme efficiency.

    Posted by RemyC | January 14, 2010, 8:00 am
  4. There is information on the NRC’s website; scroll down for the safe limits in drinking water (20,000 pCu/L):

    20,000 picoCuries is quite a low concentration of radioactivity. If you live in a stone house, you are getting more radiation simply from background radiation from the stone. However, tritium taken internally can be dangerous because it is such a weak beta emitter; tritium energy will not pass through paper (or generally skin, or clothing) so there is no danger from close proximity, but if you ingest it, it also cannot easily escape the body (since it cannot break the skin) so the beta energy bounces around inside of you until excreted. The beta energy is weak, so it would not do as much damage as say, gamma radiation, but it is present in the body for longer, since it cannot pass through.

    Posted by local kitchen | January 16, 2010, 12:53 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Who is Behind the Curtain?

Heather Flournoy is the main author, social media wiz, and community organizer behind KatonahGreen. Hover over the image for more information.

Energize Bedford

Energize Bedford

Click the image to save $ and help the environment NOW

Follow Me on Twitter

Twitter logo

Join the Conversation

facebook logo

Follow on Pinterest

Follow Me on Pinterest


Click here to Join the Katonah Green Meetup Group

Click here to Join the Katonah Green Meetup Group

%d bloggers like this: