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Ash landfill foes gather their forces

Wheelabrator, a New Hampshire-based waste processing company hopes to buy 158 acres owned by Peckham Materials Inc. on Route 9W in Catskill. The company is proposing to build an ash landfill on the site.
April 12, 2019 10:01 pm

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.”

Wheelabrator may call it "monofill," but the public need to know what it really is: a toxic amalgam of left-overs from burning garbage and that includes toxins like dioxin, the deadliest known to man, toxic heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, lead, cobalt, that leach into our water and soil and cannot be "easily contained," as the waste burning industry represents. And there is a laundry list of other compounds, organic and active. Just think of what winds up getting thrown away improperly: insecticides, house paints, computers and televisions, and a bunch of other stuff people aren't supposed to simply throw away winds up in the mainstream. It's inevitable. And that is just some of what gets into "monofill." Then add all the plastics, and containers. You get the picture. It isn't pretty.

The geology where they are contemplating dumping this ash is mostly limestone, which is a porous and acid soluble stone that leaks like a sieve or a sponge. They say they'll "line it?" It cuts like a knife, and with the addition of weight and soil movement it is not a stable foundation for what they propose.

I have had dealings with Wheelabrator and the waste burning industry for decades, since I served as Assistant to the Commissioner for the NYC Department of Sanitation which deals with more garbage than the rest of the state combined. Burn technology doesn't work. It damages the health of the community, and it produces this ash mixture which will always contain some trace elements of toxins and is hazardous to handle without releasing it by accident as soon as transfer, wind, rain, and leachate is taken into consideration. We looked at the best technologies and all promised miracles. None deliver. They promise to pay communities money, but they always wind up costing communities more, much more. Money's not worth losing more of our environment, health, or heightening the risks of autism and cancer for successive generations.

Go to these meetings, please, and ask questions. the more you learn the more you will oppose this.
Another really good article Sarah. Thank you. Concentrated heavy metals... like cadmium. My aunt did the standards for cadmium as a researcher at the EPA, what levels cause cancer... and the like. Just saying, and whose bright idea was this in the first place?