Print Friendly

In this blog by CA Executive Director Soffiyah Elijah, recent reports of significant levels of radiation leakage from Indian Point — and  the contamination fears of those in the surrounding area –  leads her to ask the question: what about the health of  the more than 11,000 imprisoned men, women and children in facilities as close as 10 miles from the nuclear power plant?


Indian Point nuclear power plant

Recently a new public outcry was sounded, sparked by the revelation that tritium radioactive contamination at the Indian Point nuclear power plant had experienced a huge surge in radiation levels from three of its 40 monitoring wells — an increase of  65,000% since the last time radiation emission levels at Indian Point had been measured.  There were media reports that fresh samples from groundwater monitoring wells showed 80% higher concentrations of tritium in just 4 days. Governor Cuomo has rightly ordered a full investigation. The situation is apparently so dire that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was also called in to investigate.

In the midst of these investigations and escalating concern, no attention has been given to the impact of this radiation on over 11,000 local “residents” who cannot leave or opt to drink bottled water. They are the men, women and children imprisoned in over a dozen adult and youth facilities located within 50 miles of Indian Point. Their voices have been the ignored canary in the coal mine for quite some time.

Back in 2009 the Correctional Association visited Shawangunk Correctional Facility located 40 miles from Indian Point and reported that many of the people incarcerated there believed the water caused health and skin problems. They said that they received water with high turbidity resulting in discoloration and poor taste. Even the prison administration  admitted that it needed to improve the quality of the water.

Bedford Hills Correctional Facility is located just 23 miles from Indian Point. It is the largest maximum security prison for women in New York State , housing nearly 970 women. It is the facility where all incarcerated pregnant women are housed. Lauded for its nursery program, Bedford is also home for the newborn babies of some of the women who gave birth during their incarceration. Just across the road from Bedford is Taconic Correctional, a medium security facility that houses another 500 women. Like the women of Bedford, and the men of Shawangunk, these women have no access to bottled water and are forced to shower in potentially contaminated water.

Downstate Correctional, a reception facility lodging at any given time nearly 1200 men, is located just 24 miles away from Indian Point.  As a reception and classification unit, it is a place where literally thousands of men cycle through on their way to their designated facility. Like the men at Downstate, the 1800 men incarcerated at Fishkill Correctional, a maximum security facility located in the same town as Downstate, are at risk of tritium contamination from neighboring Indian Point.

These concerns are exacerbated by the fact that no fewer than four youth facilities operated by the Office of Children and Family Services are located within a 50 mile radius of Indian Point. Like the men and women housed in surrounding adult prisons, these children are at risk of permanent irreversible physical abnormalities caused by exposure to unbelievably high radiation levels.

Apparently things have gotten worse at Indian Point and one can only imagine the health consequences this has caused for the involuntary “residents” in the neighboring  area. Let’s hope that their health needs and concerns are not ignored in the efforts by government authorities to protect everyone else from one of the most devastating radiation leaks in recent years.