New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and Cohoes Mayor William Keeler have announced the start of a State soil and water sampling initiative to help determine if contaminants are present in communities around the Norlite facility in the city of Cohoes.
The sampling is in response to long-standing community complaints and a recent lawsuit about chemicals being incinerated at the plant, including aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF fire-fighting foam) containing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), as well as other past practices of the facility.
In 2019, DEC directed Norlite to cease thermal treatment and disposal of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) containing PFAS compounds after the facility temporarily suspended operations.
DEC secured a commitment from Norlite to suspend all processing of AFFF materials until additional testing is conducted and establishes high temperature incineration destroys these compounds.
In addition, DEC has directed Norlite that the future incineration of any substances, including emerging contaminants like PFAS, not previously addressed in its permits, will trigger a requirement to seek a permit modification prior to processing in the facility.
In July, DEC announced the new comprehensive soil and water sampling initiative to help determine if contaminants are present in the environment surrounding the Norlite facility. During the sampling initiative, in coordination with the State Department of Health (DOH), DEC is expected to collect soil and water samples from upwind, downwind, and background locations to study the potential aerial deposition of contaminants like metals and PFAS.
DEC experts will review its sampling results to determine if there are environmental impacts in the areas studied, and the results will guide any additional on-the-ground investigations and actions in the future, an announcement from the Department said. “Over the past several weeks, DEC and DOH worked to secure property access agreements for locations where sampling will occur and worked closely with Mayor Keeler, city of Cohoes officials, and community members to ensure the sampling provides the most effective data and addresses public concerns and questions,” DEC announcement said.
In addition to the sampling initiative, DEC and DOH will hold a virtual public information session on Oct. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss the State’s efforts to protect communities from potential PFAS contamination, upcoming sampling of soil and groundwater in surrounding areas, previous drinking water testing conducted by DEC and DOH, and DEC’s Norlite permit review process.
Local residents and other interested stakeholders are encouraged to attend and ask questions. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, DEC and DOH presentations will be made virtually to individuals with internet capabilities and be broadcast at the Cohoes Music Hall for individuals without internet access to view the presentations and connect with a DEC facilitator who can assist with submitting questions to the online presenters. Additional presentation details and information about how to register to join either virtually or in person will be available soon.