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NYS DEC, DOH To Hold Public Meeting Wednesday On Norlite’s Operations In Cohoes

The Norlite facility in Cohoes, NY.
Jackie Orchard
The Norlite facility in Cohoes, NY.

A public information meeting on the future of the Norlite Hazardous Waste incinerator in Cohoes, New York is set for Wednesday night.

Since news broke in February that the Norlite incinerator on Saratoga Street had been burning stockpiled old firefighting foam that contains toxic PFOS for the Department of Defense and other parties, there has been a series of reactions from environmental activists, government leaders, and residents of Cohoes.

The New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation and Health and the City of Cohoes are hosting a virtual public information session Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. on issues related to the incineration of hazardous materials at the Norlite plant.

Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler, a Democrat, says over the last eight months people from the city and the surrounding have expressed concerns and have asked “many questions” about the Norlite revelations.

"Since March we've been working with DEC to help get some answers to those questions. So this meeting that is coming up, it's a WebEx meeting, we strongly encourage people to participate, email questions in advance, they can participate in the WebEx by calling in questions."

Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck says the meeting is the culmination of all that activity to date. She says Norlite burned 2 million pounds of PFAS-laden firefighting foam in 2018 and 2019 without publicizing it and has not done a good job protecting residents of the Capital District from its pollution.

" These are highly toxic chemicals that never degrade in the environment and can have devastating health impacts including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease and other illnesses. I think an important part of the meeting on this week this Wednesday, should include why Governor Cuomo has not signed a bill unanimously passed by the New York State Legislature that would prohibit the burning of toxic firefighting foam at Norlite forever. This bill passed over four months ago and while the governor has been busy with COVID-19 and other issues. We think it's long past time that the governor sign this bill into law to make sure that the people of the Capital District are not exposed to these toxins in the air. "

The Norlite facility is in a state-designated environmental justice area.

Keeler says the online event will offer three main areas of focus:

"Number one, DEC will provide an update on the soil and water testing associated with the incineration of firefighting foam. Secondly, which is separate from the AFFF issue, Norlite now has anew pollution control system, so DEC will explain the testing required for that. And thirdly, perhaps most importantly, DEC Commissioner Seggos has promised that will make a comprehensive review of all Norlite..."

...which entails an explanation of the permit review process for Norlite’s State’s Air Title V and Part 373 Hazardous Waste Management Facility permits and how the public can get involved.

Keeler hopes the session will help ease anxious minds.

"I think Cohoes just wants, you know, speaking as the mayor of Cohoes, just want to ensure the health and safety of the people of not just Cohoes but the surrounding area. That is the number one job of government, so, you know, we would like to see that DEC as a regulator is ensuring that Norlite is complying, is being a good neighbor. And I believe Norlite wants to be a good neighbor. We'll see how this testing goes."

Norlite responded to a request for comment via email:

We welcome this opportunity to listen to our community and share important information and the science about our operation. We operate a safe, environmentally responsible business. We carefully comply with our state and federal permits that have strict limits explicitly established by the DEC to protect human health and the environment. We are fully cooperating with the DEC regarding our permit renewal applications, and we are committed to providing the public with the information it needs to understand our operations throughout the renewal process.   We have invested $30 million in state-of-the-art environmental protection technology to enhance the efficiency of our operations. We produce an excellent product that makes buildings safer and more energy-efficient. We provide an environmentally sound means to dispose of or recycle waste that otherwise would have to be sent to landfills. We provide good, union jobs and offer excellent wages and benefits to our employees. We did properly dispose of aqueous firefighting foam for the U.S. government.  We discontinued that work given the concerns of the community and are eager to cooperate with the DEC as it conducts its soil and surface water investigation.

Residents and other interested parties are encouraged to join the virtual session and submit questions, either during or before the session. The virtual meeting is also accessible via landline and cellular telephone.

To join the virtual session online on October 21, 2020 at 6 p.m.:

? Visit http://on.ny.gov/Norlite102120and click “Join”

? Event Number: 171 919 8266

? Password: mV9Mr2xjDq3

? For information on how to participate in a virtual meeting, go to


To join by phone:

? Dial: 1-518-549-0500

? Access Code: 171 919 8266 #

? Press # again in lieu of an attendee I.D. number


DEC and DOH officials will provide information and take questions after each presentation on the following important topics:

Overview of New York State’s response to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

What is PFAS and aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), and what actions are New York taking to prevent exposure to these compounds in Cohoes and across the state.

Update on DEC and DOH’s Comprehensive Soil and Surface Water Investigation currently underway

Overview of DEC’s on-the-ground analysis to determine if there were any impacts from Norlite’s prior processing of AFFF.

DEC’s enhanced Norlite permit renewal review process

Overview of DEC’s enhanced permit renewal review and community engagement for Norlite’s State’s Air Title V and Part 373 Hazardous Waste Management Facility permits.

Required Comprehensive Performance Testing of Norlite’s Air Pollution Control Equipment

Overview of Norlite’s recently upgraded air pollution control equipment, required performance testing and DEC’s oversight.


Submit questions to DEC in advance:

? Email: Comments.Norlite2020@dec.ny.gov

? Call: (518) 357-2075, or

? Mail: Public Participation Office, NYSDEC,

1130 N. Westcott Road, Schenectady, NY 12306

To ask questions during the information session:

DEC will be answering questions submitted through Webex’s ‘chat’ function during the virtual session.


A recording of the meeting will be posted on the DEC Norlite website, https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/121118.html, in addition to information about the comprehensive sampling investigation, virtual public information session, and additional Norlite updates.

For questions, contact DEC at 518-357-2075.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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