DEC discusses plans for PFAS testing around Norlite |

DEC discusses plans for PFAS testing around Norlite

Emily Burkhard
Updated: October 21, 2020 11:44 PM
Created: October 21, 2020 11:40 PM

COHOES - It's been eight months since the pubic learned that Norlite, the incineration plant in Cohoes, burned over 2 million pounds of toxic fire-fighting foam or AFFF in 2018 and 2019.

Environmental advocates believe there's a good chance that process released cancer-causing chemicals into the surrounding environment.

Cohoes Common Council has since put a one-year ban on incinerating AFFF and on Wednesday night state officials announced detailed plans to test the soil and water around the plant.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials spoke about the testing plans and the permit renewal process that Norlite going through right now.

Some members of the public who joined the virtual meeting were upset DEC officials plan to continue the re-permitting process with Norlite, which they themselves claimed has a history of infractions.

"It's insulting to me because this was allowed to happen,” 20-year-old Joe Ritchie said.

Ritchie is Executive Director of Saratoga Sites Against Norlite Emissions. Ritchie has lived in Saratoga Sites, the public housing complex that sits in the shadows of Norlite, for most of his life.

He was hoping for more concrete answers on why DEC officials didn't know Norlite was burning AFFF right away.

DEC officials said despite having a permanent on-site compliance officer at Norlite, they didn't know about the contracts to burn AFFF from the Department of Defense and several other states for some time because it isn't a federally regulated hazardous substance, though it is regulated here in New York.

Members of the public also asked why DEC hasn't been pushing Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the statewide ban on burning AFFF.

"They didn't answer our questions about human testing, they didn't answer questions about the bill, they didn't answer any questions that we asked and so far they haven't gained the trust,” Ritchie said.

DEC crews plan to take about 50 water and soil samples from about 30 locations upwind, downwind and on site at Norlite. They will be analyzed for PFAS compounds and heavy metals.

DEC said site crews have already collected some of those samples and they hope to have them all done sometime in the next few weeks. Then they'll analyze the data, prepare a summary and schedule another public meeting to discuss their findings.

No one from Norlite spoke on the call, but Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler said he's spoken with officials there a number of times, and they seem to want to cooperate.

"They've always indicated that they wanted to do the right thing and they want to be a good neighbor and they believe what they're doing is proper and this testing by DEC will determine whether or not it is proper and effective,” Keeler said.

DEC officials said they plan to post the video of the meeting and frequently asked questions and answers they weren't able to answer Wednesday night on their website.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this story.

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