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Community Rallies Against Ash Dump In Catskill

The panel (L to R): Judith Enck, Richard Webster, David Walker.
The panel included Judith Enck, the former EPA Regional Administrator, Richard Webster, Riverkeeper’s Legal Director, and Dr. David Walker, a geologist and Catskill resident. ";

Locals packed a meeting in Catskill, New York this week to discuss an incinerator toxic ash dump proposed for an abandoned quarry on U.S. Route 9W.

Wheelabrator Technologies, the nation's second largest trash incineration company, wants to create a toxic ash dump in a former quarry in the Town of Catskill near the Hudson River. The idea has residents up in arms. More than 200 people showed up Tuesday night at the Catskill Community Center. Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck attended the two-hour session, saying the crowd spilled into overflow rooms and sidewalks outside.   "Standing room only doesn't describe it. It was a very heavy turnout and the only bad thing was we had to turn people away because there was not enough room in the community center. We had fantastic presentations by a local hydrologist from Columbia University who just happens to live in Catskill, also from an environmental attorney, and then myself."

Under Wheelabrator’s plan, 450,000 tons of toxic ash annually would be trucked through Catskill and surrounding communities. This would be the first such use of a quarry in New York state.

Hudson Riverkeeper legal director Richard Webster says Wheelabrator applied to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a permit but was rebuffed because the site doesn't meet the requirement for landfills.   "Surrounding towns can adopt municipal resolutions stating their opposition to the project, and we've drafted a sample resolution which is available if people want it. Catskill itself has a number of other choices, the first thing we're asking to do is to come out and say that this project isn't the kind of project they're looking to start in the town as it doesn't meet the town's economic development requirement, and it would be a dangerous project and would impede other economic development.  The second thing they could do is themselves draft a resolution and adopt a resolution opposing this project. And the third thing they can do is to pass local laws restricting land uses that would effectively stop projects like this because they pose a threat to the river as well as to the groundwater in the town."
Enck says forum attendees had really good questions and really good observations.   "One gentleman from Rhinecliff spoke up and reminded us all that seven communities get their drinking water from the Hudson River, so why would we possibly want to put a toxic incinerator ash dump less than a half mile from the Hudson in a very leaky quarry."

Enck notes that Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis attended the forum but did not speak at the event.  Another town official read a statement that in essence said Catskill has not received any application for a permit involving the old quarry.   "The real takeaway for me is that residents of the region need to contact members of the Catskill Town Board and the Catskill Town Supervisor and register their concerns, because this is going to be much easier to block this at the local level than having to get involved in a five- or six-year state hearing process."

Supervisor Davis and Wheelabrator did not respond to requests for comment from WAMC.

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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