Backyard Talk

Nuclear Energy: Sucking America Dry or Filling Our Pockets with Energy?

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Photo credit to Inhabitat New York City. Photo of Indian Point Nuclear Site on the Hudson River. Indian Point has been leaking radioactive material into the Hudson for several months and has had many operating issues in recent years. Located 24 miles north of New York City.

The struggle for natural gas and oil continue each day. While we deplete our oil resources we look for new ways of finding oil such as fracking and importing more oil, but this oil flow is slowly, but surely drying up too. Our nation is looking to divest our energy production in other facets such as green energy, wind, water and solar and even nuclear energy, that uses uranium rods as a fuel source.
Nuclear energy has been used for decades and over that time we have seen many catastrophes and accidents such as Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant, in Pennsylvania or Fukushima Nagasaki Power Plant explosions in Japan, where residents are still threatened by toxic pollution and mass amounts of radiation. Not to mention, possibly the most famous disaster, Chernobyl Nuclear Site which is still abandoned and must be constantly monitored. Regardless of these disasters governments around the world claim nuclear is still very safe and good option to divest money away from natural gas.
In the US many states have chosen to renew expiring nuclear plant licenses and will continue to operate under federal standards. However, some are choosing to close their doors. In New Jersey, Oyster Creek Nuclear Facility has faced several difficulties and has determined the cost of updating safety standards and fixing operating issues would be more costly than just to end their licenses and permits early and close by 2019. In other states such as New York more and more nuclear power sites are feeling the same pressures. Exelon said the R. E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants will need to be shut down unless it receives financial help from NY state.  Entergy, another nuclear power company, said that it would close the James A. FitzPatrick plant, which neighbors Nine Mile Point on the shore of Lake Ontario in Oswego County, by early next year. The costs are too high to remain open, but could cost the state and nation more if an accident happens or operating standards cannot be met. 
The subsidies needed to keep these pants open will be immense and large in monetary value as well as impact. If these sites were to close the state will need to bring more energy from oil, coal and natural gas energy. Thus adding to the release of carbon emissions and pollution. Cuomo is all for these subsidies and bailouts in order to keep our energy consumption of oil and gas low. He even praised this work saying, “This Clean Energy Standard shows you can generate the power necessary for supporting the modern economy while combating climate change.”
So, the question stands, is nuclear power sucking America dry or is it filling our pockets with energy? You be the judge.
To find out more about current subsidies for New York nuclear plants click here: and to stay up to date with more environmental justice issues make sure to continue reading Backyard Talk- CHEJ’s Blog. [/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Backyard Talk

The New Lead – Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)

It’s bad enough that lead is making headlines everywhere, but now a new group of chemicals is showing up in drinking water across the country – in Portsmouth, NH, Hoosick falls, NY, Scottsdale, AZ, Colorado Springs, CO, Decatur, AL, Bucks County, PA, Cape Cod, MA to name a few places. These chemicals are called perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs and they first generated headlines in the 1990s when they contaminated the drinking water for 70,000 people of Parkersburg, WV where a DuPont plant made teflon and related products for decades. Exposure to these chemicals is linked to developmental delays in children, decreased fertility, increased cholesterol, changes in the immune system, and cancer (prostate, kidney and testicular).
PFCs are quickly becoming the “hot” chemical to look for in drinking water as it seems to be showing up everywhere including places such as the Pease International Tradeport Business and Industrial Center in Portsmouth, NH. In the summer of 2014, the City of Portsmouth reported that two unusual chemicals were found in all three wells that serve the business center as well as the NH Air National Guard Base on the site of the old Pease Air Force Base. The concentration of one of these chemicals – perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) – exceeded the USEPA Provisional Health Advisory (PHA) causing the city to immediately shut down the well. PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are part of the class of chemicals known as perfluorinated compounds, and they are starting to show up in drinking water wells throughout the country.
PFCs are common in many consumer products, including teflon pans, fabric protectors, pizza boxes and ski wax and it is used to make carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture. They are also used to fight fires and in a number of industrial processes. At the Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, the water became contaminated when firefighters practiced putting out fires on abandoned portions of the airbase using firefighting foams that contained PFCs.
PFOA and PFOS contamination in drinking water is thought to stem from two main sources: factories that formerly manufactured or used the chemicals, and locations, including military bases, where they were used in firefighting foams. According to the EPA, both PFOA and PFOS are found at very low levels in the blood of the general population across the U.S.
Although no one lives at the Tradeport Center, more than 10,000 people work there and there are two day care centers. The people who use the daycare centers immediately formed a Facebook page called “Testing for Pease” and began asking for blood testing for the children. Soon more than 500 adults and children had their blood tested for PFCs and many had levels that were higher than the general population. More blood testing is now underway as the community struggles to make sense of the results and what it means for their future. The health effects of PFCs are not well understood but studies in communities with similar exposures found associations with kidney cancer and testicular cancer. Other concerns includes high cholesterol, immune damage and possible reproductive effects.
In May of this year, the EPA finalized its Health Advisory for PFOA and PFOS lowing its advisory value from 400 and 200 respectively to 70 parts per trillion (ppt) for both compounds combined. This level was based on a lifetime exposure to total PFCs. This change followed criticism from researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health that the original PHA was not adequately protective of the public.  This health advisory is based on long term exposure to PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.
CHEJ has prepared fact sheets on the toxicity of these chemicals and on the how to interpret blood levels. Both were prepared as part of our work with the local residents in Portsmouth, NH.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about PFCs including how to interpret test results.

Backyard Talk

An Issue We Can All Get Behind

Every blog I have written during my time at the CHEJ has focused on or mentioned the West Lake Landfill. No wonder, considering how the majority of my work here has dealt with promoting awareness about the landfill. But the reason why I continue to write about it is because the inaction and inattentiveness shown by some public officials towards this issue angers me.
There is no excuse for delaying the clean-up of a toxic waste site that poses a threat to public health and potentially threatens the community’s water source. When a Tea Party Republican like Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer and Progressive Democrat like Lacy Clay can agree on the EPA’s mismanagement of West Lake, you know there’s a problem. No room for argument exists as to whether Superfund sites (those recognized by our government as hazardous and toxic) should be top priorities for our public officials. And yet Superfund sites languish across the country.
In addition to the West Lake Landfill, sites in San Jacinto, Texas and Birmingham, Alabama have gone unresolved. The San Jacinto Waste Pit received wastes from a nearby paper mill, depositing harmful dioxins “which are extremely toxic and can cause increased risk of cancer and other threats to human health such as liver damage and birth defects.” The waste pit is also directly near the San Jacinto River and puts the local environment and community drinking water at grave risk. And yet the EPA comes back with temporary cap plans rather than a plan towards a permanent solution. Similarly, the Birmingham community is dealing with the aftermath of the ABC Coke Plant’s pollution at the 35th Avenue Superfund Site. Containing contaminated soil and groundwater, the Birmingham Superfund site also remains an issue and shows the EPA’s preference for lip service over action on toxic waste sites.
Superfund issues have one clear answer: they must be a priority and any threat to families and the public must be immediately addressed. Every day that a site goes unaddressed is another day that a community is put at risk. It’s just common sense that communities should have access to safe, clean drinking water and not live near hazardous waste sites that have gone largely unaddressed by the government. Protecting communities from environmental disasters should be an issue we can all get behind.