NORTHFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Franklin County residents say it’s the first time in more than thirty years they’ve seen certain sections of the Connecticut River frozen over. They think it has something to do with the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant up-river.
From the Vermont state line to as far south as Sunderland, people are reporting a change in the water temperature. Ice on top of the Connecticut River is an unusual picture for some Franklin County residents during the winter.
Louis Guillette has lived in Northfield for over thirty years. He pointed out a section of the Connecticut River in town that he hadn’t ever seen iced over, and he doesn’t think it’s just because of the cold. “Since the Vermont Yankee closed down and they’re not heating up the water, it’s made a tremendous change to the entire river.”
The power plant had used the river to cool down its reactors.
The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant had a permit from the state of Vermont to discharge hot water into the Connecticut River. It varied upon the season but it could go 13 degrees above the water temperature in the winter at one point. The permit was reformed last fall before the power plant announced it would be shutting down.
Exec. Director of the CT River Watershed Council Andrew Fisk said, “We’re very sure, with up to half a million gallons of water a day being significantly hotter than the river. That’s what was contributing to the river being open and free from ice in past years.”
Fisk said the cooler waters will help some fish and animals that were being affected, particularly the shad which migrates upstream from the cold ocean waters.
Some are reminded of an era when people used to use the ice from the river to travel across, or transport stones to build the Northfield Mount Hermon School which was established in 1879.