Chilmark places radioactive water on the ballot

Durkee seals the deal on a town climate change planning workshop.

Chilmark select board chair James Malkin leads Tuesday's meeting. The board will place a question on its annual town election ballot asking if the town supports the discharge of radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay.

Chilmark’ select board voted unanimously Tuesday night to place a question on the annual town election ballot that would ask voters to weigh in on a nonbinding question of whether to endorse or oppose the discharge of radioactive water from Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station into Cape Cod Bay. 

“So far West Tisbury has voted yes, Aquinnah has voted yes, and it will be requested of all the towns on Martha’s Vineyard,” select board member Warren Doty said.

“I think it’s great to add that onto our warrant and get a vote on it,” select board member Bill Rossi said. 

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesman Neil Sheehan told The Times the water in question amounts to 1 million gallons and in part comes from the power station’s spent fuel pool.

“Some of the water was used for cooling and radiation-shielding purposes in the spent fuel pool, which has now been emptied of fuel,” Sheehan emailed. “Other water is left over from various other plant processes. There is about 1 million gallons total that the plant still needs to dispose of.”

Mary Lampert, long a Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station watchdog, told The Times a lot of emphasis has been placed on the radioactive isotope tritium. However, Lampert suggested cesium, plutonium, and neptunium may also contaminate the water. Mary’s husband, Jim Lampert, said the NRC has unrealistic expectations for filtering tritium because, as he put it, it’s essentially a form of water and can’t be filtered. Mary Lampert said tritium isn’t as innocuous as the federal government has made it out to be. She said it will bind to other materials in sea sediment and work its way up the food chain. Sheehan indicated such discharges aren’t new. 

 Over the years the plant was operational “releases of liquid radioactive effluents” have happened, he wrote. 

Sheehan shared slides that were presented to area stakeholders. Among other things, the slides show that a brand of wristwatch apparently contains tritium and some hospital water discharge may be more radioactively worrisome than what’s potentially in the Pilgrim water. 

“One of the slides provides data on those releases and their radiological impact, which is barely detectable in the environment,” Sheehan wrote. 

Chilmark’s election is slated for April 27.

In other business the board heard an update from Martha’s Vineyard Commission climate change planner Liz Durkee about the Vineyard’s climate action plan and how Chilmark could participate. 

“The Martha’s Vineyard Commission and almost 100 local residents are working on the climate action plan for the Island,” Liz Durkee “We’ve developed goals and we’re working on objectives and we’re moving forward. And one thing we’d really like to do in all the towns is to have a workshop with some of the staff and board members to update them on what we’re doing and to talk to them about their priorities so those can be included and incorporated into the plan.”

Select board chair Jim Malkin asked town administrator Tim Carroll to coordinate a gathering of town officials for a 1½  hour workshop.

Malkin asked Durkee for specifics about what the workshop would entail. 

“We’re going to provide an update on the guiding values we’ve established for the climate action plan,” Durkee said. The workshop will also illuminate “the goals we’ve developed for the six thematic working areas that we’re focusing on,” she said. Durkee described these working areas as land use, natural resources, biodiversity, transportation and infrastructure, public health, and safety.

Durkee said the workshop would bring to the table Chilmark-specific climate issues. 

Flooding, heating and wildfire are possible concerns, she said.

“We just want to get a sense of what the concerns and priorities of the town employees and board members are so that we can have that information as we move forward on developing the plan.”

Overall Durkee said the climate action plan would, at a minimum, arrive at two goals for each of the working areas. 

“Eventually we’re going to get it down to the actual actions that we want to take to achieve these goals,” Durkee said, “and then figure out how we’re going to implement them.”

Malkin called the workshop a “terrific idea” because people would be able to express their concerns as opposed to just sitting through a presentation. The ability to share perspective will likely boost participation, he said.



  1. I’ve read ship sonar messes with their concentration, and not in a pleasant way. But valid point, we’re messing with their world.

  2. I’m sure this vote will be closer than we think. But in all seriousness, we should actually get some of this water and bottle it (in reusable glass bottles of course) and market it as a cure for covid.
    It makes complete sense– We all know that radiation is bad for living things , but just a little will only kill verrrrrrrry tiny things– like covid.!!!!
    Covid is so small that you can’t even see it.
    It’s like injecting bleach, only without the needle..

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