Tests are negative for radioactive contamination

Tests for radioactive contamination in Mohawk River area of the Latham Water District came back negative after a spill occurred at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory just north of the facility in Niskyuna on Oct. 25.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the contents that were emitted from KAPL were Cesium-137 and Stronthium-90 along with small amounts of uranium and plutonium as a result of an electrical malfunction of the Hillside sump pump system. In a Notice of Violation from the DEC dated Nov. 3, the discharge of these materials lasted for nearly three hours until the pumping system was fixed, which resulted in 630 gallons flowing into the Mohawk River.

The spill violated state laws and regulations contained in the New York State Environmental Conservation Law, according to the Notice of Violation, for waste released into state waters that do not meet state standards and not taking steps to minimize the incident.

DEC said they will be notifying the U.S. Department of Energy, which is currently remediating the facility after it was shut down.

The facility, which was active from 1950-1953, served as a Cold War facility for processing special nuclear material, according to KAPL. The soil beneath the building is said to contain trace amounts of radioactivity.

Latham Water District Director John Frazer said they received the results of a test for alpha and beta emitters, a test that is conducted monthly, came back as non-detect, meaning there was no threat to public health. The explanation for this, Frazer said, might be because the materials were diluted by the river.

"We're talking about the Mohawk River, which has a substantial diluted potential," he said. "The contents were probably diluted enough that it wasn't even detected."

There was a breakdown in communication, though, between DEC, the Albany County Department of Health and the Latham Water District. Frazer said he had heard about the incident in the news when he was supposed to be contacted by the Albany County Health Department, which was supposed to be contacted by the DEC and the State Department of Health.

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