Radioactive Material Leaked Into New York's Groundwater This Weekend

February 7th 2016

Alex Mierjeski

Elevated levels of radioactive material below a nuclear power plant in New York over the weekend created safety concerns for nearby residents upstate, and caused the state to launch an investigation into the leak, according to officials.

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant

On Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that "alarming levels of radioactivity" were found in a number of monitoring wells at the Indian Point facility in Buchanan, about 40 miles north of Manhattan. Some levels were recorded at nearly 65,000 percent above normal, according to a statement by Cuomo on Saturday.

"Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat," Cuomo said.

The plant's operator, Entergy, said that there was no reason for safety concerns over elevated levels of radioactivity and the presence of the radioactive hydrogen, tritium, in the wells. Tritium has been linked to cancer and genetic mutations. The company said that while groundwater was affected, drinking water was not, and the contamination had not strayed from the facility's site.

"While elevated tritium in the ground onsite is not in accordance with our standards, there is no health or safety consequence to the public," Entergy said in a statement.

According to the governor's office, it's not the first time Indian Point has had troubles with radioactive leaks. It has also tangled with state officials before over the leaks, and has been a target of Cuomo's since his first gubernatorial run in 2001, according to the Politico blog Capital New York. The site has also been lampooned by environmental activist groups.

Greenpeace Activists

Radioactivity levels at one location were measured at more than 60,000 percent their normal levels — 8,000,000 picocuries per liter up from 12,300 picocuries per liter. The Environmental Protection Agency caps safe levels of tritium in drinking water at 20,000 picocuries per liter.