This is a collection of Zoom meeting recordings of sessions held by the West Valley Action Network (NIRS is a part of this network), the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Waste, and various partners including the Partnership for Public Good, Buffalo Commons and the Western New York Environmental Alliance. Thank you to all the organizations and speakers and particularly for making this important information available.
The West Valley Action Network in conjunction with Partnership for the Public Good (PPG) Buffalo produced this 6-part series of ZOOM meetings to share information about one of the most radioactive waste sites in the country, here in Western NY.
The first two programs in the series will give the history of what’s there, what was done, how dangerous it is from experts who have tracked the site for decades.
Presenters: Dr. Ray Vaughan, Geologist and Diane D’Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
June 1, 2021, 6-7:30 pm
This is the first workshop in a series hosted by The West Valley Action Network.
Raymond C. Vaughan, Ph.D., P.G., is a professional geologist and environmental scientist in Buffalo. Earlier in his career, he worked for 33 years in research and development labs in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, then from 2000 to 2012 as an environmental scientist in the NYS Attorney General’s Office where he worked on limiting mercury emissions, protecting the Great Lakes, and many other issues. Ray has a longstanding interest in nuclear waste cleanup and environmental protection. He has served since 1997 on the West Valley Citizen Task Force, which advises the state and federal agencies that are cleaning up the nuclear waste site at West Valley, N.Y. From 1978 to 2006 he was a member of the Steering Committee of the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes. He served on the Town of Hamburg Conservation Advisory Board from 1980 to 1999 and has served on nonprofit boards, including the Western New York Land Conservancy from 1991 to 2002 and the Nature Sanctuary Society of WNY from 2013 to present. He has a wide range of interests, including WNY history—on which he has presented at conferences in Buffalo, Lewiston, and Edinburgh, Scotland—and enjoys canoeing, hiking, sailing, and other outdoor activities.
Diane D’Arrigo is the Radioactive Waste Project Director at Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS). She has degrees in chemistry and environmental studies and work history in analytical and organic chemistry with a focus on the pollutants in the Great Lakes. She worked for the Sierra Club Radioactive Waste Campaign based in Buffalo from 1980 to 1984 and as a community organizer and researcher at other public interest and environmental groups. Starting with the West Valley nuclear waste site, she has closely tracked nuclear waste issues for decades, including high level and so-called “low-level” commercial and weapons waste. She has repeatedly challenged unnecessary nuclear waste transport including over the Peace Bridge and has coordinated national and international opposition to deregulating nuclear waste that would allow it to be dumped as regular trash or made into everyday household items.
Presenters: Joanne Hameister, Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes (CWVNW) and Kathy McGoldrick, CWVNW
June 22, 2021, 6-7:30 pm
This is the second workshop in a series hosted by The West Valley Action Network.
Joanne Hameister, BS Mathematics, is retired from a 45 year career as a Research Analyst in various fields of pharmacy, aerospace engineering, operations, advanced designs. She is a long time member of the League of Women Voters (LWV) and was introduced to the issues at West Valley Nuclear Facility with appointment to the LWV chair on New York State Program Committee. She has been a member of the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes steering committee since 1982. In 1991 was tapped by Governor Cuomo to NYS Low Level Radioactive Waste Study Group. She also served on the steering committee that formed the Western New York Land Conservancy and its Board of Directors for 10 years. She founded the WNY Gluten-Free Diet Support in 1988, served as its chair for 20 years and a term on the Celiac Sprue national governing board.
Presenters: Charley Bowman, WNY Peace Center and Diane D’Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service
July 27, 2021, 6-7:30 pm
This is the third workshop in a series hosted by The West Valley Action Network.
Charley Bowman, WNY Drilling Defense and WNY Peace Center, and Diane D’Arrigo, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, will present the case for enclosing the big reprocessing building during demolition this fall, winter or spring (timing keeps changing) and for offsite monitoring and reporting in real time both air and water, before, during and after the demolition. This will also be needed in years to come when the underground waste is excavated to prevent leaking into the creeks that run into Lake Erie, and beyond. We need real time monitoring for the kind of radioactivity that is at West Valley to confirm as best as possible that it is not getting released offsite into our communities and resources, crops, fish, milk, meat, water and environment. This is important because the radioactive materials on that site, in walls of the building to be demolished are dangerous now and will still be dangerous for hundreds, thousands–some even millions–of years in the future….So preventing the dispersion offsite is essential. Charley will review enclosures that have been done at other sites including in NYS and TN and Diane will describe offsite monitoring options which detected radioactive releases at other nuclear demolitions. We will discuss what the public can do accomplish these goals including calling on New York State to be assertive and do independent monitoring and review of the federal actions.
Presenter: Agnes Williams
August 24, 2021, 6-7:30 pm
This is the fourth workshop in a series hosted by The West Valley Action Network.
To help stop invisible but long lasting, dangerous radioactivity from getting into our air, water, soil, food and environment join us for a monthly series to learn about the West Valley NY Nuclear Waste Site. One of the most radioactive buildings at that site, and at all the nuclear power and weapons sites, in the country is slated to be demolished starting in 2021. The West Valley Action Network groups are calling for an enclosure during demolition and offsite real-time, publicly-reported radiation monitoring to see if radioactivity is getting out.
This workshop will feature Agnes Williams sharing indigenous perspectives for a nuclear-free future.
Agnes F Williams is a Wolf Clan enrolled Seneca (Haudenosaunee/Iroquois) who was born and grew up downstream from the West Valley NY Nuclear Waste Site on the Cattaraugus Creek of the Seneca Nation of Indians near Irving NY. She is a sister, auntie, grandmother of eight and mother of three daughters. She lives on the Cattaraugus Creek working in Buffalo, NY with the Indigenous Women’s Initiatives/ Indigenous Women’s Network of Austin Texas.
She has attended the Thomas Indian School, Gowanda Central Class of ’68, and received her 1972 Bachelor’s and 1973 Master’s from Syracuse University’s School of School of Social Work. Agnes became a 1991 doctoral candidate in American Studies University of Buffalo. Her dissertation topic is “The Retraditionalization of Indigenous Women as an Empowerment Strategy” and authored a 1978 paper for the National Education Institute-Wash DC “The Changing Roles of American Indian Women from the Reservation to and Urban Setting.”
As a community activist she helped organize the 1978 Longest Walk SF-DC, the Oakland California-AIM for Freedom Survival School and worked as a diplomat for the NGO International Indian Treaty Council in the United Nations-Geneva Switzerland and participated in the 1983 A & H Bomb Conventions in Japan. Agnes is a founder of the Women of All Red Nations (WARN)-Rapid City South Dakota and the Indigenous Women’s Network-Austin Texas and the Indigenous Women’s Initiatives- a project of Riverside Salem UCCDC-Grand Island NY.
As a licensed Social Worker Agnes has clinically worked as a perinatal counselor, family therapist, field supervisor for social work students and a child welfare consultant and training specialist.
Currently, Agnes is a Coordinator at the Indigenous Women’s Initiatives campaigning for “Water Is Life,” “Nuclear Free Future,” and “Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery.” She organized the last ten+ years annual commemoration on August 9th “Indigenous Peoples Nuclear Free Future Day” at the Buffalo History Museum to educate the public about the continued existence of Haudenosaunee Peoples and the 2007 United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) ” Indigenous Peoples right to exist with prior, free and informed consent. Agnes is appointed to the Climate Change Task For of the Seneca Nation of Indians near Irving, NY.
As an organizer and activist, she extends public invitations to join her work for peace and justice.
Presenter: Patricia K. Townsend, Ph. D.
September 28, 2021, 6-7:30 pm
This is the fifth workshop in a series hosted by The West Valley Action Network.
This workshop features Patricia K. Townsend, Ph. D. From her perspective as a social scientist, Dr. Townsend will review highlights of public participation during the six decades of the West Valley nuclear site that had varying degrees of success in making us all safer from dangerous radiation.
Individuals from many walks of life brought their different skills to bear on the challenging decisions of how to proceed in the work of remediating the highly polluted site. Some of those you have heard during this series of programs have been engaged for more than 40 years, others have a newly acquired passion for activism to help protect the Great Lakes region for our descendants.
Because of the political and bureaucratic complexity of the West Valley Development Project, citizens need to be engaged with their representatives at local, county, state, and federal levels as well as with agencies to assure a cleanup that is protective of air, water, and human health.
Patricia K. Townsend, Ph. D., is an environmental and medical anthropologist who authored or co-authored multiple editions of college textbooks in both fields. Her early fieldwork as a cultural anthropologist was in the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea, with her husband Bill Townsend, a civil engineer. A subsequent research project took her to Superfund sites in Montana, Tennessee, and Love Canal. Since retirement, Pat has devoted much of her volunteer time to West Valley nuclear concerns through her connections with several organizations, including the West Valley Citizen Task Force, the Buffalo-Niagara League of Women Voters, the anthropology department at the University at Buffalo, New York Interfaith Power and Light, the Western New York Interfaith Climate Justice Community, and Presbyterian Women of WNY.
Presenter: Barbara Warren, RN, MS, Executive Director, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition
October 26, 2021, 6-7:30 pm
The workshop, the sixth and final one in the series, Climate, Clean-up and Accountability at the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site was held virtually, free and open to the public. Federal and NYS major environmental laws were passed years after the West Valley Nuclear site was chosen and built. So, nothing at the site meets current environmental laws or standards. Now climate change threatens to exacerbate the immediate danger of contamination. Barbara Warren, RN, MS, and Executive Director, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, reviews findings of reports on the site and failures to provide reports. She will detail the plans for the chemicals and nuclear materials North and South Plateaus, waste tanks, and disposal areas.
This workshop features Barbara Warren, RN, MS, Executive Director, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition.
Where are we? What work still must be done? Could climate impacts release radioactive wastes?
What contamination is on site? The Presentation will review the Entire Site and the various sources of contamination.
What was supposed to be completed in Phase 1? When will it be completed?
We will review the Plans presented in 2010 for Phase I & 2 and the progress and difficulties since then.
Climate Change is having more profound impacts than we expected in 2010 and how the site might be impacted.
The planned Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) being prepared by the US Department of Energy and the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority for 2022 will review Phase 2 Final Plans for remediation and cleanup of the entire site. A key problem is that a significant amount of Phase I work has not been completed,
Barbara Warren RN, MS in Environmental Health Science: Beyond her nursing employment in hospitals, she led training programs for the NJ Dept of Health, the Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports) and more. She prepared a report on NYC Potential for Toxic Chemical Accidents which resulted in a new NYC law with requirements geared to reducing the quantities of dangerous chemicals at facilities and having proper storage.
She worked to defeat Garbage Incineration in NYC, promoted increased recycling of solid waste over many years with the Citywide Recycling Advisory Board and was involved in closing the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, the largest in the world at the time.
Since 2008, she has been the Executive Director at Citizens’ Environmental Coalition on the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site. She has had continued involvement to ensure adequate cleanup and public health protections at West Valley including releasing the Synapse Report, The Real Costs of Cleaning Up Nuclear Waste: A Full Cost Accounting of Cleanup Options for the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site and critiquing the 2010 West Valley Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the Dept. of Energy.
Previously Anne Rabe was CEC’s Executive Director and worked on West Valley. B. Warren’s Background: Hazardous & radioactive chemicals, air pollution, emergency planning, environmental justice.
New Yorkers legally own the West Valley Nuclear Waste Site which is upstream and upwind of Buffalo and the rest of NY, the Seneca Nation of Indians Territories and Canada. Highly radioactive nuclear power and weapons waste was reprocessed there to extract plutonium and uranium, leaving one of the most intensely radioactive sites in the world. The US Department of Energy is tasked with “cleaning up” part of the site and they are about to demolish the above ground part of the super-radioactive reprocessing building as soon as Fall 2021 (there have been delays—now projected by late 2022). Much appreciation for the workers who have been suiting up and clearing out the building some of which had been way too radioactive for people and only accessed by remote control. Workers are removing as much radioactivity as they can before the building(s) are demolished–but radioactivity remains in the thick walls and steel-reinforced structures. How much long-lasting radioactive material will be spread during demolition to communities, farm and dairy land up the food chain to our milk, cheese, eggs, food crops, meat and fish? To our waterways, air and soil?
Is the “legal” level of radioactive contamination a “safe” level (NO), especially for females, young people, older people and those with existing health conditions and exposure to other cancer-causing environmental and household pollutants?
What other radioactive and chemical waste is at the site?
The sessions will answer these questions and raise more, providing avenues for meaningful public participation.
These concerns are summarized at https://www.westvalleyaction.org/
1) We need an enclosure over the building(s) during demolition (and future excavation of below-ground waste and structures) at West Valley to prevent radioactive materials from spreading to the air, land, water, people, flora, fauna and environment AND
2) We need continuous, real time, offsite, air and water monitoring and publicly accessible reporting before, during and after the demolition of one of the most radioactive buildings in the nuclear power and weapons complex.
3) We must watchdog this demolition and the many cleanup steps that must follow–to prevent huge amounts of buried nuclear materials from leaking out and to isolate the waste that is now stored above and below ground at the site.
The West Valley Action Network formed as a loose association of individuals and groups in 2009 to work for the full clean up of the West Valley Nuclear Waste site in West Valley NY, Cattaraugus County, draining north into Erie County and the Great Lakes. It is comprised of individuals and organizations in NY, the US and Canada working for the full cleanup of the West Valley nuclear waste site and includes the Coalition on West Valley Nuclear Wastes, Sierra Club, Western NY Environmental Alliance, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Indigenous Women’s Initiatives, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, the Western NY Peace Center, WNYCOSH, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, NYPIRG, the Adirondack Mountain Club, religious groups, sporting groups and many more.