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Protesters Scuttle Inspection of Site Considered for Nuclear Waste

December 14, 1989

ANGELICA, N.Y. (AP) _ Opponents of a proposed radioactive waste dump claimed a first-round victory after chasing members of a state team scouting for sites through snowy fields and holding them captive for four hours.

Protesters were ready to be arrested Wednesday, but state police agreed instead to file trespassing charges against members of a field team from the state Low-Level Radioactive Waste Siting Commission.

Protest organizers said they were ready to block inspection of two other potential dump sites in Allegany County today if the field team returned.

Also Wednesday, 20 protesters were arrested on disorderly conduct charges in Cortland County, 100 miles to the east, when they refused to allow a state inspection team to leave one of two potential sites there.

Anti-dump activists in both counties have been camping out all week at the five proposed dump sites, watching for the state inspectors.

Dump opponents fanned out along the edges of the Allegany sites at dawn, armed with citizens band radios, portable heaters and thermoses on sleds as they waited throughout the morning in freezing weather.

Bill Mura, who lives near one potential site, opened his home as a rest area and warming station for protesters.

″We moved out here 22 years ago to get away from it all,″ Mura said, gesturing toward the hilly, forested countryside. ″This is what we get thrown at us.″

His house, like almost every building in Allegany and Cortland counties, bears a fluorescent orange sign reading ″No Dumping - Don’t Waste New York.″

The five sites were chosen by the commission in September. Under federal law, states must have a place to store low-level radioactive waste by 1993.

The commission plans to complete soil testing and other preliminary evaluations by spring and then narrow the number of sites to two or three for more comprehensive tests.

Allegany protesters planned to block the state field team from getting on the sites Wednesday, but the team was not spotted until it was already on the site in the town of Allen at about 12:30 p.m.

Several dozen people tracked the officials’ footprints through the fresh snow, chasing them up and down wooded hills until they surrounded seven team members on a county road.

About 100 protesters linked arms and formed a human chain to prevent the officials from leaving the site.

Allegany County Sheriff Lawrence Scholes, who has no deputies other than jail officials, called in state police.

The two officers who arrived made no arrests.

″At this point in time I don’t see a need for arrests,″ Lt. Charles McCole said. ″What I see is a group of concerned citizens.″

Dump opponents produced landowner William Giovanniello, who said the state team had failed to give him notice that they would be on his land and asked that its members be arrested for trespassing.

″They never notified me,″ Giovanniello said. ″No phone call, no nothing.″

Commission staff member Bruce Goodale called Giovanniello’s charge ″absolute, sheer nonsense.″

Police and protesters began an hour of negotiations, with the dump opponents demanding that the state team be arrested before they would allow them to leave.

The protesters eventually agreed to let the team members leave after Giovanniello signed a complaint against them and police filed charges with the district attorney’s office.

Exuberant protesters whooped and hollered ″See you in the morning,″ as the team members were allowed to return to their cars.

Jay Dunkleberger, executive director of the siting commission, said he did not consider Wednesday’s events a victory for the protesters.

″I consider it a draw,″ he said. ″We did accomplish the task we set for ourselves for the day.″

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