The federal government, New York state and a Capital Region cement plant have reached a settlement to resolve alleged violations of federal and state water regulations.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New York’s Northern District, the Environmental Protection Agency and New York State announced the deal with the LafargeHolcim facility in Ravena Thursday. The consent decree would require the company to pay an $850,000 civil penalty and comply with a state discharge permit.
It’s alleged that from 2015 through this April the company violated effluent limitations 273 times with a variety of pollutants. The agencies say the plant, situated across the street from the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School on Route 9W, was also responsible for unauthorized discharges into tributaries of the Hudson River, such as Coeyman’s Creek and Hannacroix Creek.
Judith Enck, former EPA regional administrator and president of Beyond Plastics, says the plant has a long history of violating environmental laws.
“It's really troubling that we're now just learning that for over six years the company violated the Clean Water Act and is now being fined $850,000 by federal and state environmental agencies. Remember, this cement kiln is very close to the Hudson River. It's also across the street from a large public school. The company was discharging large amounts of pollutants either directly into the Hudson or into tributaries that run into the Hudson. They were discharging sulfuric acid, partially treated the landfill leachate, fecal coliform and other materials. This violation of Law happened 273 times between April 2015 and April 2021.”
LafargeHolcim spokesperson Jocelyn Gerst said in a statement to WAMC the company "takes its environmental responsibility very seriously, including addressing legacy problems that existed long before the company’s ownership of the Ravena facility."
State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos says the consent decree will help to resolve years of violations and exceedances under federal and state rules and regulations. and requires a significant penalty of $850,000.
Again, Enck: “ My question is how did this go on for so long without there being action? I'm glad that the regulatory agencies took this step. I'm concerned that $850,000 actually is not much for a large company like this one. And I remember, this is the same company that wants to burn one million tires a year at the facility, so close to the Hudson, which will also affect water quality on the Hudson in addition to creating air pollution. So on one hand, it's good that there's a settlement that’s been reached with this polluter. On the other hand it really calls into question whether the management at this facility is capable of running it without causing substantial air pollution and water pollution damage.”
In LafargeHolcim's statement, the company says it cooperated fully with state and federal regulators, adding the "consent decree is a humbling reminder that we did not achieve our own expectations, for which we take full responsibility. We have worked closely with the State and Federal Government to take steps to ensure we are in continuous compliance, today and into the future."
Under the agreement LafargeHolcim is being directed to invest in an Environmental Benefit Project that will help improve the health of the Hudson River, which Seggos brands “a victory for the town of Coeymans” in Albany County.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.