Schenectady County

Knolls scolded for flow into river

The Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory has been reprimanded by the state Department of Environmental Con

The Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory has been reprimanded by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for an illegal discharge into the Mohawk River on Oct. 25.

The incident, which occurred near the General Electric property and on the west side of the KAPL site, was produced by an electronic malfunction in conjunction with heavy rain, the state said.

A notice of violation from DEC cited these two factors as the reason for the discharge into an overflow culvert and into the Mohawk River.

According to KAPL, approximately 630 gallons of dirty water was continuously released for three hours until the pumping system became functional around midnight.

The composition of the discharge was unknown as of Wednesday, although KAPL was conducting sampling during the incident.

KAPL reported that low levels of Cesium-137, Strontium-90, uranium and plutonium were likely to have been in the water that flowed into the river. They added that volatile organic compounds also may have been in the discharge.

DEC spokesperson Yancey Roy said the failure was detected by a watchman after midnight. Roy confirmed that DEC officials have been on site monitoring the incident since they were notified by KAPL.

Roy said the DEC’s presence is part of a continuous investigation it’s leading.

According to DEC regional water engineer Andrea Dzierwa, the failed pump system is now fully functional. Improvements to the engineering controls at the location are planned and overflow from the sump system has been redirected to an on-site storage tank, she said.

The incident could have been avoided, Dzierwa said, if KAPL had implemented best management practices.

The failure by KAPL is possibly in violation of state laws and regulations.

The maximum allowable penalty under state law is $37,500 per day for violations that may have occurred in this instance, but Roy said it would be premature to speculate about penalties while the investigation was continuing.

The federal Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency were both notified about the incident.

The Knolls facility had a minor scare at the end of September when contaminated dust was kicked up and registered on the bottom of workers’ shoes as they were leaving the site.

That incident was disregarded as a minor mistake without serious consequences by members of the state Health Department and DEC.

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