Cohoes residents concerned about delay in Norlite permit action

COHOES – Plans are in the works to demolish an active, public housing development in Albany County – due in part to possible health concerns from a nearby hazardous waste incinerator.

NewsChannel 13 has been covering the situation at and around the Cohoes Norlite Plant for years.

Norlite burns hazardous waste and has been cited numerous times in the past for its operations.

Residents of the nearby Saratoga Sites housing development have complained of respiratory issues and have appealed to the Department of Environmental Conservation for assistance.

Norlite’s hazardous waste permits expired a year ago, and standards have been updated that would require changes in company operations. However, Norlite has been permitted to keep operating.

"Norlite will not be able to continue their past practices at the Norlite Facility in regards to their ash material and their baghouse dust material, which we believe has been contributing to many of the concerns that have been expressed by the residents at Saratoga Sites," said Cohoes Assem. John McDonald.

Residents are complaining of lung problems like asthma, COPD and recurrent nose bleeds.

NewsChannel 13 reached out to DEC, and got this response from Regional Director Anthony Luisi:

"DEC shares serious concerns about conditions at this facility, and it is our top priority to hold Norlite accountable for its impact on the surrounding communities, including frontline environmental justice neighborhoods.

"DEC is actively reviewing the use and management of baghouse dust at Norlite to determine if the facility is in compliance with all applicable requirements, which were recently strengthened by DEC to ensure the most stringent protections are in place to safeguard public health and the environment. This is just one of the many ongoing actions DEC is undertaking to safeguard the Cohoes community while we work with the Office of Attorney General to ensure that this facility addresses ongoing violations and any unauthorized activities that harm the environment and communities."

However, Cohoes Housing Authority Director Matthew Ethier tells NewsChannel 13 it could all be too little too late:

"The Cohoes Housing Authority is working on finalizing an application to HUD for the demolition/disposition of Saratoga Sites. We are hopeful to receive approval from HUD and the housing authority and its relocation company will begin moving the families residing at Saratoga Sites to more suitable housing starting in the spring," said Ethier, in a statement.

Norlite released this statement early Friday evening:

"Norlite is in the process of renewing its New York State environmental permits with the Department of Environmental Conservation. We welcome constructive suggestions from DEC, our elected officials, and our community.

"As a company, we are all about sustainability. We make products that make buildings safer and more energy efficient. We destroy hazardous wastes for our customers and our community. We comply with strict environmental standards that protect the health and wellbeing of our region. Our facility poses no environmental or health risk. Nevertheless, we are continuing to invest millions of dollars in new environmental technology in Cohoes. And we are committed to continuous improvement in our operations."