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DEC: Toxic Chemicals Found At Washington County Composting Facility

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As the state Department of Environmental Conservation continues to investigate the presence of toxic chemicals known as PFC’s in upstate New York, the presence of PFOA and PFOS has been detected at a composting facility in Washington County.

Since PFOA was discovered in the Rensselaer County village of Hoosick Falls, the state of New York has searched for the carcinogen, and its sister chemical PFOS, in neighboring areas, says Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman Sean Mahar.

“In southern Washington County we had a few detections that were observed during the course of the investigation as we expanded it out. And as we took more sampling it led us back into the Willow Brook Creek and that area,” said Mahar.

Then DEC received a tip from a local resident about a composting facility in the town of Cambridge owned by Massachusetts-based CTI Agri-Cycle LLC.

PFOA and PFOS, perfluoronated compounds, or PFCs, were found after collection ponds, soil and groundwater were tested.

Now the investigation is expanding to determine the extent of the issue and how the chemicals are getting into the site.

Rick Clarkson, Bureau Director for DEC’s Bureau of Permitting and Planning, Division of Materials and Management, said the facility processes yard waste and paper mill sludge from facilities across the region.

Clarkson said the next step is to follow up with the paper mills that have brought waste, or “feedstock”, to the composting site.

“We want to identify any illegal disposal sites or any areas that may have been impacted by PFCs broadly.  But in this particular case we don’t have any expectation that there was any inappropriate action. We just want to track back to see where the material came from and try to minimize PFCs that are coming in and any feedstock coming in,” said Clarkson.

Kip Foley, manager of CTI-Agri-Cycle LLC, told WAMC the company is cooperating with state agencies. He said as a compost facility, CTI is in “full compliance with all rules and regulations and permits for the facility.”

Foley said he did not know about the presence of the chemicals at the site before it was reported by DEC.

The company is operating as normal today. It has not been shut down nor requested to be shut down by DEC.

DEC has supplied point-of-entry treatment systems to four nearby homes. The state health department is seeking to test private wells at ten other households.

But Clarkson says none of the levels of PFOA and PFOS are above mandated health advisory levels.

“So this is more or less a determination of where the material is coming from, but it’s not really an emergency response or anything like that,” said Clarkson.

In the nearby Village of Cambridge, Mayor Carman Bogle said the municipal water system was tested for PFC’s about a year ago upon news of the contamination in Hoosick Falls. She said at the time, PFOA was found at a level of 3.4 parts per trillion. That’s well below the New York state and U.S. EPA advisory levels of 70 parts per trillion. But Bogle would still prefer non-detectable levels of PFCs.

“I would love that number to be zero. But of course right now, that’s not required,” said Bogle.

And that’s the issue with PFCs – a long history of lack of regulation. Bogle says the village will test its water supply, operated by company American Water, again in the future.

Meanwhile DEC’s investigation into the Agri-Cycle facility in Washington County continues.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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