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DEC, Cohoes Host Public Information Session As Scrutiny Of Norlite Facility Continues

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

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation and the city of Cohoes held an online public information session Wednesday night on air pollution control and emissions testing at the Norlite facility in the Albany County city.

Although Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed a bill to ban the burning of highly toxic PFAS chemicals at Norlite, Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler, a fellow Democrat, says residents remain concerned about burning hazardous materials at the facility.

"There’s still more to be done. And we've learned a lot since January. We've made progress and we're teaming up with DEC look forward to more progress regarding Norlite. And that's why I've asked DEC to host these public meetings"

During the two-and-a-half hour session, DEC Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer Ben Potter responded to neighbors’ complaints about odors and soot emanating from the plant smokestack, affecting quality of life at the Saratoga Sites public housing complex.

"Odors were not observed off site that we could relate directly to Norlite. So we have several odor complaints. And we will continue to go through those until we can actually relate it to something if it's related to Norlite. In one of the complaints we had set us up there, the complaint was soot falling on Saratoga Sites. So on that response, which was on November 24th, we took several samples across all of Saratoga Sites, and those are currently being analyzed to see if it is soot or if it's not, we determine that it's not exactly soot, we'll try to figure out what it is. And then we'll try to find exactly where it's coming from. If it's coming from Norlite, We want to know what process is that coming from.

In addition to hearing residents’ comments and suggestions, officials told those who also expressed concerns about ground vibrations and dust associated with shale mining, which Norlite performs on site, that all such reports are being thoroughly investigated.

Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck attended the session:

"The company has to get new air pollution, toxic air pollution permits, and new waste permits from the DEC. Those permits expire at the end of December. And the DEC says that they are going to administratively extend those permits. They believe they have the authority to do that. I compare that to your car registration and inspection inspiring, expiring and still being able to drive on the roads with your old jalopy car."

The DEC's Sean Mahar addressed the permits during the meeting.

DEC "The State Administrative Procedures Act guides the permitting process for New York state in general. There are provisions in that that allow for current permits to continue after the expiration date if the facility is submitted in a timely and complete application. "

Enck points out that Norlite is applying for a permit from the state to continue to burn liquid hazardous waste imported from around the country. She criticized Wednesday's online session.

"It was better than the first meeting because the first meeting they wouldn't let the public ask questions. This time you were told to submit questions in advance or you can submit in the chat, or sometimes they would let you talk. It was kind of not particularly responsive to questions, but a few people spoke up that had submitted written questions in advance, like the good girl scouts and boy scouts that we are. And then I asked so when are my questions gonna get answered. And the DEC said, oh, they're still looking at them, and they have to submit a FOIR to get some of the questions answered, defeating the whole purpose of a public meeting."

Officials say there will be future meetings and the public has the opportunity to submit questions on the DEC website. Complete audio of Wednesday night's meeting is posted below:


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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