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Environmentalists Oppose Proposed Incinerator Ash Dump In Catskill; Public Meeting Tuesday

WAMC file photo

More than 50 environmental and community groups have joined forces in opposition to a proposed incinerator ash dump in Catskill.

Activists are sounding the alarm that Wheelabrator Technologies, the nation’s second largest incinerator company, has proposed to locate the dump at an old quarry on U.S. Route 9W in Catskill. Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay says some 450,000 tons of incinerator ash would be trucked to Catskill from  incinerators in Peekskill, Poughkeepsie and Hudson Falls, NY.    "It's wrong for the site. It's extremely dangerous. It's gonna lead to a lot of contamination that Catskill and surrounding communities can better live without."

Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck grew up in Greene County, calls the plan "a really terrible idea."   "We know that incinerator ash contains heavy metals that are embedded in the fine ash, particularly the fly ash. And we also know that the site, the old quarry that's been identified less than a half mile from the Hudson River is filled with natural springs and crevices in the quarry rock. It's very likely that the heavy metals and the dioxins in the incinerator ash are going to leach into groundwater and eventually reach the Hudson River."

Enck pointed out that rain and snow falling on the site would create a contaminant-laden liquid slurry that would have be trucked and run through the sewage treatment plant in Catskill, which she says is not equipped to process, then discharged into the Hudson River.   "Certainly understanding that the local government officials want to create more tax revenue, but they could put a solar farm at that site. They could put a composting facility at that site."

Last week activists sent a letter to Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis, asking her to reject the proposal. She has not returned several calls from WAMC.

Greene County resident Mary Finneran calls the ash plan "industrial assault" and says she'd like to see the river and neighbors remain healthy.   "This is dioxins and all kinds of heavy metals and mercury and it's just really nasty stuff. People are saying that the trash-burning facilities are a good way to get rid of trash, but actually with all the... it's essentially better to just bury it whole than to... and we have to figure out something to with the trash but to burn it and introduce this nasty nasty ash? It's just not a good way to go."

Riverkeeper's Gallay says more than 180 residents have already joined the opposition to the project. Enck plans to speak at a community forum Tuesday.   "I hope that residents of Catskills and surrounding communities across the river in Columbia County and Ulster County nearby, I hope everyone comes out to a panel which I will be speaking on along with other experts, Tuesday night the 23rd of April at 7 at the Catskill Community Center to learn more information about this very risky proposal."

Gallay:  "We'll talk about the science, we'll talk about the law, but most importantly we'll talk about why there's better ideas for the site. We did not just spend the last 50 years cleaning up the Hudson River and strengthening community character in shoreline towns like Catskill just to start to importing toxic incinerator ash into those communities and make the same mistakes a second time."

Wheelabrator technologies did not respond to a request for comment.

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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