Skip to main content

NH waste processing company eyes Catskill

Sarah Trafton/Columbia-Greene Media  The former quarry at Peckham Materials in Smith’s Landing is a potential site for a recycled metal facility.

Sarah Trafton/Columbia-Greene Media
The former quarry at Peckham Materials in Smith’s Landing is a potential site for a recycled metal facility.

February 12, 2019 01:36 pm Updated: February 12, 2019 03:21 pm

Columbia-Greene Media

CATSKILL — A New Hampshire-based waste processing company is scouting an inactive cement quarry at the former Peckham Materials in Smith’s Landing for a site to recycle metal from ash shipped in from its other plants.

The company has no plans to burn waste in Catskill.

Wheelabrator, a company that converts waste into renewable energy, expressed interest in purchasing 158 acres on Route 9W including a former quarry owned by Peckham Materials Inc. Wheelabrator owns 26 plants in the United States and United Kingdom.

Company representatives made a presentation to the Village Board of Trustees on Jan. 23. Wheelabrator is testing the site to see if it is feasible for the facility and the project is about two to three years away from fruition, Manager of Development Mark Schwartz said. The January meeting was an introductory session, Catskill Village President Vincent Seeley added.

The site is ideal for the project, Schwartz told village officials.

“It’s an industrial zone with no repurpose value,” he said. “There’s no use for the land, there’s no abutters, there’s no disturbance of the viewshed.”

The project will also provide great benefits to the town and village, Schwartz said.

“It will help restore the loss to the tax base from the cement kilns,” he said. “And it will be a revenue source to the village. The town and the village could use this revenue stream for decades. It’s a win-win,” Schwartz said.

The facility could be a good thing for the town, Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis said.

“Pending all the reviews, if it passes all that, then from a revenue perspective, it’d be a great source of revenue for the town.”

The town experienced a $50,000 loss in taxes when the quarry and cement plants closed, Davis said.

“In 2016 we almost didn’t make our expenses,” she said.

Seeley also sees potential for the company.

“There is potential windfall from a financial perspective for the village,” he said.

In addition to creating jobs, the revenue to the village from the company’s use of the water and sewer system is estimated at $250,000 to $500,000 a year, Seeley said.

The project is in its early stages, Schwartz said.

“We are doing subsurface studies of the site to test the hydrology, geology, seismic activity, resistivity and groundwater. We have found no fatal flaws so far,” he said. All testing has to be submitted to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for review.

Once the results are in and the reports completed, the project will move into its engineering phase, Schwartz said.

At the proposed site, metals will be filtered out of an ash reservoir monofill, with the ash brought in from Wheelabrator facilities in Peekskill, Hudson Falls and Poughkeepsie. Schwartz said.

A monofill is a landfill that contains only ash, no raw garbage, lined with a huge sheet of plastic, according to Hazardous Waste News.

Waste brought to the plants is burned in a boiler at 2,000 degrees. Pressure from the steam released by the combustion powers turbines to produce energy. Wheelabrator has four facilities equipped to produce ash, the waste product.

“We have similar monofills in Putnam, Connecticut, and Shrewsbury, Massachusetts,” Schwartz said.

The Catskill site would process the ash in a similar manner.

“Ash is transported to the sites in covered, watertight trucks and unloaded at the monofill working face, spread with a bulldozer, and compacted with a vibratory roller,” according to Wheelabrator’s website. “From the ash, further ferrous and nonferrous metals not removed via plant systems are recovered and sent to advanced metal recovery upgrade facilities to be recycled.”

In 2017, Wheelabrator recovered and recycled 160,517 tons of scrap metal that would have otherwise ended up in landfills, according to the company site.

The Putnam plant, which has new technology developed by Inascho BV, allows Wheelabrator to recover metals as small as 0.2 millimeters.

The metal is marketed for sale and after many years of use, the valley will fill with ash and the company will cover it, Schwartz said.

“We can plant indigenous species after,” Schwartz said, adding that these sites are also popular for renewable power after they’ve been used.

“There will be many more meetings to discuss [the project] with the public,” he said.

To learn more about how Wheelabrator creates energy from waste, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbC6ed3RAAU.

Comments
A prediction:
After they've filled every last square inch of the property, the company goes belly up. The residents and taxpayer will eventually be stuck with a leaking toxic waste site leaching into the Hudson River.

Does anybody really think that the best use for Hudson River waterfront property is a landfill?
In the long run, a clean river and environment will generate more money for the local economy.
Please Greene County and Catskill, do a little due diligence independent of Wheelabrator's self-promotional process. They are trying to sell themselves. They will lock us in with inducement agreements that contain withdrawal penalties. They, and their parent company are notorious in environmental circles. They have bad reputations for open, transparent dealings. They are looking for places to dump toxic ash. It's that simple.

We should first insist that the whole Peckham site be tested as it is in order to determine that Peckham has not been allowing toxic waste disposal their and construction waste dumping. This will protect us from a future claim of "pre-existing conditions." This testing should be stipulated at Peckham's and Wheelabrator's sole cost without recourse.

I worked with the NYC Dept. of Sanitation on environmental issues and can tell you that Wheelabrator's parent company has a most problematic history.

Uncanny local political acumen here: build jails we don't need. Incur $90M of debt we can't pay. Alienate tourism in the form of Mt. Jam. And now go a courting toxic heavy metal ash dumping garbage burners in trouble during the worst environmental protection era in most of your lifetimes.

Remember, "Win Win" - when it sounds too good and glib to be true, it likely is.

Here are some random links to read and decide for yourself if you want to take their ash:

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/politics_and_government/slow-burn/article_931d79de-2c13-5938-a158-ea6cc7c4d023.html

https://www.citylab.com/environment/2018/02/an-incinerator-divides-a-town-near-boston/552053/

https://www.wickedlocal.com/x976202186/Wheelabrator-Saugus-trash-odor-draws-complaints

http://archive.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/05/03/wheelabrator_oks_settlement_of_75_million/
One other thing. The particular ash Wheelabrator might be trying to dump is from New Hampshire. But, they are a multinational, Houston based garbage company and dumper. They are organized in local operations to evade liability through different LLC's. Right there, that tells us to be ultra cautious. They have a history of dodging liabilities and digging in with aggressive litigation to threaten the thin financing of small towns:
• Wheelabrator Launches Pa. Suit To Skirt Asbestos Liability
• Law360, Philadelphia (May 3, 2017, 7:29 PM EDT) -- Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. lobbed a complaint in Pennsylvania state court Tuesday looking to dodge defense and indemnification responsibilities for a trio of asbestos cases being pursued on behalf of individuals with...
There are a number of red flags that go up in response to the assertions floated in this article. First, check some of the links above out for yourself. Then consider the fact that Wheelabrator pays millions in fines and fees for disposing of their toxic ash, but what they are offering the Town of Catskill is "restoring the loss to the tax base from the (former Holcim) cement kilns." Oh gee, they're offering to buy land to dump toxic waste and pay their taxes in return. For this we should all "rejoice" for the "win-win."

“It will help restore the loss to the tax base from the cement kilns,” he said. “And it will be a revenue source to the village. The town and the village could use this revenue stream for decades. It’s a win-win,” Schwartz said. "

Then the additional 'sweetener' is suggested:

"In addition to creating jobs, the revenue to the village from the company’s use of the water and sewer system is estimated at $250,000 to $500,000 a year, Seeley said. "

This dubious statement posits that water lines and sewer lines would be brought up to the current locations of the quarry being run by Peckham Industries and - ignoring the capital expenditure for this - we are supposed to salivate at the thought of additional fees for an industrial waste operation drawing off our water resources. What about the inevitable droughts that occur from time to time? What about the idea of a toxic waste company now tied into our sewer lines, and by definition our water treatment entering the Hudson River? No environmental impact? I think not!