CATSKILL — A proposed ash landfill has prompted two community forums.
Wheelabrator Technologies, a company that converts waste into renewable energy, expressed interest in purchasing 158 acres on Route 9W in Smith’s Landing, including a former quarry owned by Peckham Materials Inc.
The landfill proposed by Wheelabrator is called a monofill, so named because it will contain ash and no other waste materials.
Wheelabrator owns 26 plants in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The company would haul ash from its incinerator plants in Peekskill, Hudson Falls and Poughkeepsie to the Catskill location and separate the metals from the ash.
The company has no plans to burn waste in Catskill.
Some local residents were dissatisfied with the presentation Wheelabrator gave the Catskill Village Board of Trustees in January.
“They talked about the tax revenue benefits,” said local children’s book author Hudson Talbott, who will be moderating the April 23 forum. “It was a nice commercial for them. The potential health risks and environmental issues are also worth talking about,” Talbott said. “They conveniently left the other info out.”
The first meeting will be a press conference April 15 at 11 a.m. in Room 130 of the Legislative Office Building, 198 State St., Albany.
“We want to draw attention to a dump of toxic ash from Peekskill, Hudson Falls and Poughkeepsie,” Riverkeeper Communications Director Cliff Weathers said. “The ash comes from waste filled with toxins such as mercury.”
The toxins pose a great risk to the environment, Weathers said.
“There is a possibility for it to get into the groundwater, wells and springs,” he said. “There is the probability the ash will spread into the air or the Hudson River, which already has enough challenges.”
The ash byproduct is not harmful, Wheelabrator Director of Communicators & Community Engagement Michelle Nadeau said.
“Energy-from-waste ash is regularly tested by independent laboratories using approved U.S. EPA methods and is routinely found to pass the U.S. EPA toxicity test for waste and, therefore, determined to be a non-hazardous waste according to NYSDEC and U.S. EPA standards,” Nadeau said. The proposed facility will operate in accordance with stringent state and federal environmental standards designed to protect public health and the environment while providing significant long-term economic and environmental benefits to the town and village.”
Wheelabrator’s technology has some positive environmental impacts, Nadeau said, including reducing waste volumes by 90 percent and reducing carbon emissions.
Route 9W will also be subjected to increased traffic because of the trucking demands, Weathers said.
Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay, former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck and local geologist Paul Rubin, of Catskill, will be guest speakers.
“We want to get people involved with this press conference,” Weathers said. “We’re encouraging different proposals for use of the property.”
Talbott has a similar vision for the community forum, scheduled for April 23 at 7 p.m. at the Catskill Community Center, 344 Main St.
“It’s for info gathering and dissemination,” Talbott said. “We want to start with getting people up to speed and aware. It’s better to raise these issues now than wait until it’s developed.”
The project is still two to three years away from fruition, Wheelabrator Manager of Development Mark Schwartz said in January. The site is undergoing tests to determine if it is feasible and it all has to be approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The approval process will take years, Talbott agreed.
“We could be looking for better,” Talbott said. “Waste management is everybody’s biggest problem. We need to take responsibility for it.”
Gallay, Enck and Dr. David Walker of Catskill, a local geologist, will speak at the event.
Wheelabrator welcomes community engagement throughout the development process, Nadeau said.
“We are at an early stage in our planning and would like to present our concept and listen to feedback from local people,” she said. “This process will help inform our work as we shape the project in more detail. We encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about our project to contact our team members.”