ALBANY - New York State has denied a water quality permit that the Indian Point nuclear facility near Manhattan needs for federal re-licensing in what environmental advocates call a historic victory in protecting the Hudson River.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation says that data from the past 35 years show that the Entergy Corp. facility has been harming aquatic organisms as it draws up to 2.5 billion gallons of water a day from the Hudson River to cool its two nuclear units, then returns the warm flow to the river.

The DEC says Entergy's proposed 20-year continued operation "would continue to exacerbate" the harm done to fish including sturgeon, fish eggs and larvae, and the company has acknowledged radioactive material from the site continues to get into the groundwater.

Entergy could request a hearing, challenge the decision or seek an extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The power plants are about 35 miles north of Manhattan in the Westchester County town of Buchanan.

Assemb. Richard Brodsky (D-Greenburgh) said diverting the water, then returning it untreated is the "most destructive force on the Hudson River it in its history."

Entergy countered in a statement Saturday, saying the action by the DEC isn't final.

The state's rejection doesn't require the site to shut down.

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