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EDITORIAL: Another C&D proposal for Catskill

November 21, 2019 05:35 pm

In the southern portion of Catskill, every square foot of land seems to be ripe for some kind of industrial development.

Months after an application for a controversial ash dump was withdrawn from the state, a new proposal has been submitted by Peckham Industries in Smith’s Landing to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a permit to build berms made from construction and demolition debris.

Peckham Industries’ proposal follows on the heels of an application by the New Hampshire-based company Wheelabrator Technologies for a permit to create an ash dump on the Hudson River in Smith’s Landing, a proposal that was staunchly condemned in the spring.

Wheelabrator sought a lease on 158 acres on Route 9W in Smith’s Landing, including a former quarry owned by Peckham Materials Inc.

The project involved hauling 445,000 tons of ash each year from Wheelabrator’s incinerators in Peekskill, Hudson Falls and Poughkeepsie, to the Catskill site, and separating the metals from the ash. The anticipated lifespan of the project was 48 years. The application, submitted in 2017, was withdrawn after public outcry led by environmental advocate Judith Enck and the environmental watchdog group Riverkeeper.

Peckham representatives are scheduled to present information about the project at the Nov. 26 Town of Catskill Planning Board meeting, Chairman Joseph Izzo said Wednesday.

The project would involve importing 600,000 tons of construction and demolition debris, according to DEC. That’s 150,000 tons more material than what was proposed by Wheelabrator.

The C&D materials would be used to construct a series of visual, noise and dust barriers across the site to screen the industrial recycled asphalt pavement handling and processing operations from surrounding viewsheds, including the Hudson River.

Now, there is upside to building a screen to shield an industrial site from view and at the same time keep out noise and dust. The downside, of course, is the screen would be built from construction and demolition debris.

A C&D landfill receives construction and demolition debris, which typically consists of roadwork material, excavated material, demolition waste, construction/renovation waste and site clearance waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. C&D landfills do not receive hazardous waste or industrial solid waste unless the landfills meet certain standards and are permitted to receive such wastes. The EPA regulates materials containing lead and asbestos.

One of the first questions the planning board must ask is whether the proposal is or is not a landfill. However the project is classified, it is incumbent on the planning board not to make any decisions before it has all the facts. And with several C&D-related proposals in the past, the planning board should make certain that Peckham follows all the regulations.

As any resident anywhere in Greene County can tell you, C&D projects come and go with the tide. It’s time to make that experience work for us.

Pollution goes with the tide. The Hudson is an estuary, so it flows up and down, though mostly down. Aggregate building and construction materials and legacy materials often included led, mercury, chromium and other heavy metals associated with 20th Century structural steel paints and asbestos. Seven villages get their drinking water from the Hudson. This proposed landfill is right on the Hudson. It's a totally bad idea.

What about what's on the Peckham, formerly Lehigh, Holcim site already? Has that been adequately tested for its own toxicity and environmental impact as it should? That baseline, and making sure multinational corporations don't get a 'free pass' to walk away or fade away from their fiduciary and legal responsibility the land they may still have ownership responsibility should be the first question and fact explored and nailed down before considering any such proposal. There would seem to be a lot of greener alternatives for "protecting views" than construction debris mounds.