May 24, 2006
Contact: Melissa Merz
CHICAGO – Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow today announced that the Will County Circuit Court has approved a preliminary injunction ordering Exelon Generation Company, LLC, to take a number of critical steps to protect public health and the environment at its Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station.
Madigan and Glasgow, who filed a lawsuit against Exelon Corporation, Commonwealth Edison Company, and Exelon Generation Company, LLC, in March, said today’s order is the first phase in addressing the tritium contamination at the Braidwood facility and the nearby areas impacted by the releases.
“This order provides an initial blueprint for how Exelon Generation must address the serious problems that have arisen because of contamination from the Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station,” Madigan said. “While the lawsuit continues to move forward, this order outlines the actions that Exelon Generation must take immediately. Lawsuits take time. This order is about requiring Exelon Generation to take steps to protect public and environmental health and safety now.”
“The preliminary injunction approved by the court today is a critical first step toward protecting our citizens from releases of radioactive tritium by Exelon Generation’s Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station,” Glasgow said. “My office, Attorney General Madigan and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency have worked tirelessly since the complaint was filed to hammer out an order that immediately establishes specific remediation timetables and oversight plans to ensure Exelon Generation’s compliance while leaving the door wide open for any future action necessary to protect the public health.”
“The action taken by Attorney General Madigan and State’s Attorney Glasgow is an important step in ensuring that Exelon Generation fulfills its commitment to remedy the contamination it caused,” said Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) Director Doug Scott. “By working together, we can make sure the public, and Illinois’ natural resources, are protected.”
According to the order, the following steps must be taken:
Operations at the Braidwood nuclear plant generate tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that can replace non-radioactive hydrogen atoms in ordinary water to form tritiated water. Health experts say human exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer.
In March, Madigan and Glasgow filed a lawsuit against Exelon Corporation, Commonwealth Edison Company, and Exelon Generation Company, LLC for the facility’s releases of wastewater containing tritium into the groundwater beneath the facility and the groundwater outside the boundary of the plant.
According to Madigan’s and Glasgow’s suit, the defendants released tritiated water at eight separate locations on the Braidwood property. The first leak allegedly occurred a decade ago. Three distinct releases occurred in 1996, 1998 and 2000, and three other releases occurred at unknown times from the facility’s blowdown line, which is an underground pipe that carries wastewater, including tritiated water, approximately four and one-half miles from the power plant directly to the Kankakee River. Braidwood’s blowdown line is located on facility property, but runs adjacent to private and public property, including a forest preserve and nature area.
An additional release occurred at an unknown time in the area near and to the west of the station and an eighth release occurred March 13, 2006, near the tritiated water temporary storage area at the plant.
Madigan and Glasgow’s lawsuit alleges that the eight leaks contributed to water pollution and that six of the releases were the result of inadequate maintenance and operation of vacuum breakers along the blowdown line. Vacuum breakers allow air into the line to prevent the formation of a vacuum within the pipe.
Madigan and Glasgow alleged that tritiated water entered the vacuum breaker housing and flowed into the groundwater and upward through a manhole onto the surrounding land. In addition, as a result of the leaks from Vacuum Breaker 3 in 1998 and Vacuum Breaker 2 in 2000, a plume of tritiated water is present near the vacuum breakers and has extended through the groundwater and a surface pond and into the groundwater north and east of the Braidwood property.
The lawsuit alleges that all of the defendants also discharged non-radioactive contaminants, such as sewage, into surface and groundwater off site without a state National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
The suit seeks the maximum civil penalties for the water pollution violation and for additional allegations that include exceeding groundwater standards.
The order entered today also requires Exelon Generation to:
Division Chief Matthew Dunn, Bureau Chief RoseMarie Cazeau, Environmental Counsel Ann Alexander and Supervising Attorney Rebecca Burlingham are handling the case for Madigan’s Environmental Enforcement Division. Glasgow serves as lead counsel for his office.
Charles B. Pelkie
(815) 530-7110 (cellular)
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