Calm in the shadow of Indian Point

| 22 Feb 2012 | 05:15

Many plant neighbors say they’re unconcerned. Some don’t know the facility exists 10 or so miles from places in Tuxedo and Harriman. By Becca Tucker While Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for shuttering Indian Point and the feds have launched a safety review of the plant in the wake of Japan’s nuclear crisis, those living next door are mostly unbothered by what-ifs. “No one’s concerned. Only Cuomo’s concerned,” said Colm O’Reilly, a retired restaurateur who lives in Tuxedo, 10 miles from Indian Point. People living here, he said, are “more concerned about the (Ramapo) river rising and cutting off the bridge.” Without nuclear plants, “imagine the cost of electricity?” O’Reilly added. “Whatever happens happens, you know?” shrugged Tiffany Heater of Newburgh, waiting for a bus back home after applying for a job at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in Central Valley. Two out of of five Woodbury Commons employees this reporter spoke to hadn’t even heard of Indian Point. “I didn’t even know we had a power plant,” said Pail Kasprzykm, 22, of Chester. “I think it’s kind of bad that people around here don’t even know about it.” 'Outside’ the zone “Officially, Woodbury Commons is outside the EPZ (Emergency Planning Zone), so we don’t have a presence in the Commons,” said Orange County Emergency Management Deputy Commissioner Seamus Leary. The shopping center, at 10.36 miles from Indian Point, according to Google Maps distance calculator, is a third of a mile outside the emergency planning zone. “It’s close, but it’s not in the EPZ,” Leary added. “That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t put out public messaging for instructions in the event of an incident.” Caroline McGowan, shopping at Yves St. Laurent, is originally from France, which gets 80 percent of its electric power from nuclear. Japan’s disaster, she said, “is so recent that it’s still happening 'over there.’ We don’t watch the news, so we’re not subjected to news-induced needless panic,” she said. Justin Manah, 23, of Harriman, an employee at Guiseppe Zanotti in Woodbury Common, worries “a little bit, 'cause of the radiation and all that… I never really gave it much thought, even after what happened in Japan.” Evacuating In the case of a nuclear emergency, people within the 10-mile radius around Indian Point can expect to evacuate, said Leary. In Orange County, the 10-mile radius boundary is east of the New York State Thruway and south of Englewood Road in Cornwall. “There’s really only two ways out of Orange County EPZ: that’s west and north,” said Leary. Residents of the specific area within the 10-mile zone are supposed to go to pre-determined reception centers, where they would be screened to make sure they had not been contaminated, and given information. The Village of Harriman and Village of Woodbury will go to Middletown High School. The Village of Highland Falls and Town of Highlands will go to Newburgh Free Academy. The Town of Cornwall will go to the Heritage Junior High School in New Windsor. The Town of Tuxedo would go to Suffern High School. Of the dozen people this reporter spoke to, no one’s instinct was to go to a reception center. If they’d thought about it at all, most said they’d drive far and fast. “I’d just get in my car and try to get as far away as possible,” said Daniel Jones, 17, a student at Tuxedo High School. Jones occasionally hears one of Indian Point’s 172 sirens blaring out a test during science class at George Baker High School. Though he thinks the recent media hullabaloo is unwarranted because, “we’re not prone to earthquakes,” those sirens still resonate. “Is it always a fear in the back of people’s minds? Yeah.” (Indian Points lies near the Ramapo Fault line, which is frequently described as the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast.) Snow storm evacuation Getting anywhere by car, in the event of an emergency, is bound to be a disaster, thinks Nicole Callanan, 20, of Central Valley. Callanan works at LeSportsac in Woodbury Commons. A few months ago, Woodbury Commons was evacuated during one of the winter’s heavy snowstorms. Callanan was ordered to leave the store as it was. She got in her car at 7:30 p.m. and didn’t get out of the parking lot until two hours later. “We were just sitting in traffic,” she said. “There’d be a panic,” she said. “Our customers don’t speak English.” They hail from China, Japan, Korea and Brazil. “How would we communicate with them?” “The only reason I would feel slightly safe” in the case of a nuclear disaster, “is that West Point is right there,” she said. “My instinct would be to get out. If it was something big, it would go further than 10 miles.” Staying put Others say they wouldn’t bother trying to get anywhere. “If that thing goes wrong, if you’re within 100 miles, you’re in trouble,” said O’Reilly, the retired restaurateur from Tuxedo. “And if it does, we won’t have to worry about it.” “I’d stay here. Where I go? I have no place to go,” said Mohammad Khan, who works at Wally Mart in Harriman. Originally from Pakistan, Khan has lived in Harriman for 12 years. “They can’t do anything for us. You have to die one day. When you have to die one day, anyway, you die, so what’s to worry about?”