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Higgins joins Coalition of Environmental Groups Advocating for Full Clean Up at West Valley Site

May 30, 2009
Press Release

A broad-based coalition of environmental, sports, labor and religious groups were joined by Representative Brian Higgins at a media event at the Erie Basin Marina with a flotilla of kayaks, canoes and fishing boats to highlight the need to protect Lake Erie from nuclear contamination. The federal and state governments are proposing to leave vast amounts of nuclear waste at the West Valley site for up to 30 years and probably longer. Scientists found in a state-funded independent study that, over time, leaking nuclear waste from the site, located 30 miles south of Buffalo, can pollute Lakes Erie and Ontario and harm public health and the economy in the U.S. and Canada.
The public has 9 days left to send comments to the federal Department of Energy (DOE) and NYS Energy Research & Development Authority. Comments can be sent by June 8th via the DOE website at Congressmen Higgins and Massa are inviting the NYS Congressional delegation to join in their call for an immediate decision for full cleanup. The groups urged New Yorkers to comment in support of the Great Lakes-protective cleanup plan with full waste excavation for the dangerous, leaking West Valley site.

The DOE prefers the option to clean up part of one leak that is spreading, estimated to be 1% of the site's radioactivity and to delay, for up to 30 years, the decision on whether to cleanup the remaining 99%, which itself could spread. Over 50 groups and citizens spoke in support of complete waste excavation cleanup at a series of public hearings in March and April citing scientists who found the safest, most cost effective way to protect the Great Lakes is to dig up 100% of the radioactive waste.

"Full clean-up of the West Valley site is the right thing to do ethically and environmentally and I will be working with my colleague Congressman Eric Massa to seek the government's commitment toward this effort," said Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Caucus. Higgins noted the federal Recovery Act included an additional $74 million for West Valley clean up, doubling the typical annual allocation.

Diane D'Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director at Nuclear Information & Resource Service said, “Now is our chance to protect our drinking water from intensely radioactive nuclear power and weapons waste buried upstream decades ago but still able to cause large numbers of cancers now and in decades to come. The US Energy Department and NYS won’t commit to dig it all up before it leaks further unless every one of us tells them they must—Do it at before June 8th.”

Art Klein, Sierra Club Niagara Group and Adirondack Mountain Club Niagara Frontier Group representative stated that “The Great Lakes are some of the finest recreational waters in the world. The people who are here today celebrate the possibilities the lakes offer and are very sensitive to the West Valley nuclear waste threat to our precious water.”

“A full clean up of the West Valley waste site is the only responsible option to protect our Great Lakes, health, and economy," said Brian Smith, Citizens' Campaign for the Environment WNY Program Director. "Anything less is nothing more than ignoring a serious threat and passing along our problems to future generations.  Citizens Campaign for the Environment urges the public to tell the DOE and NYSERDA to support the safest, most cost effective solution- a full waste excavation clean up."

"Will our legacy for the future be a poisoned watershed and Great Lakes? This is our responsibility. We are the stewards for a healthy future environment,"  said Thomas Marks, NY Director of the Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council.

To view the independent, state-funded study, The Real Costs of Cleaning Up Nuclear Waste: A Full Cost Accounting of Cleanup Options for the West Valley Nuclear Waste, visit, or