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Seneca Nation not ceasing nor desisting over planned wastewater plant

The Pittsburgh law firm representing a company that wants to build a water treatment plant in Coudersport, PA to treat natural gas fracking waste has told the Seneca Nation and President Todd Gates to keep quiet about the plant, saying he is making "false, destructive and defamatory statements." The nation has lashed back, with help from a heavyweight Washington, D.C. law firm.

Gates has been very vocal in opposition to the Epiphany plant and says he will continue to be opposed in public. In a written response to the law firm Blank Rome and lawyer Amy Joseph Coles, Seneca lawyer Donald Pongrace from Akin Gump called the letter "preposterous" and said its legal foundation was "spurious." Pongrace called it an attempt to bully Gates and the Seneca Nation, and says the opposition is now likely to expand.

Gates says the plant is likely to leak contamination into the Allegany River, as another similar plant does.

"The new innovative plant that they are proposing to experiment on our Allegany River, and there are other plants in other parts of the state there has been contamination going downstream," he says.

Gates says the nation and its environment have been dumped upon for years and it's time for that to stop. He says Nation members support him because they also feel strongly about the need to stop contamination of waterways.

"Yeah, don't experiment on our river," Gates says. "We were at the CAMA [Coudersport Area Municipal Authority]
board meeting the other night, last Monday. That's what I said to them: Don't experiment on our river. We need to work this through. Accidents happen. They were talking about accidents there at the meeting."

The Seneca president says Buttermilk Creek also carries some radioactivity away from the West Valley nuclear site. He says the Epiphany lawyer probably thought the nation would immediately give in to the cease-and-desist letter, but he won't.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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