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Trustees: Wheelabrator abandons Catskill project

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    Residents wait in line outside the Catskill Community Center on Tuesday for a forum on a proposed ash landfill.
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    Dozens of residents turned out to express their concerns with the Wheelabrator proposal to put an ash landfill in Catskill.
May 17, 2019 05:10 pm

CATSKILL — A New Hampshire-based municipal waste combustion company is dropping its plan to build an ash landfill in the town, two village officials confirmed Friday.

Wheelabrator Technologies was proposing to lease 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 annually from Wheelabrator’s incinerators in Peekskill, Hudson Falls and Poughkeepsie, to the Catskill site, and separating the metals from the ash. The anticipated life of the project was 48 years. The application, first submitted in 2017, was under review by the state Department of Environmental Conservation but its status is currently considered incomplete.

Village Trustee Joseph Kozloski said he learned Thursday at a meeting with Wheelabrator representatives that the project was dead.

“I thought it was going to be a regular meeting,” Kozloski said.

As the department head of village water, sewer and roads, Kozloski had to work with Wheelabrator because the project required the village treatment plant to dispose of its wastewater.

“They told me they were no longer interested in the site,” Kozloski said.

Kozloski met with Senior Manager of Business Development Mark Schwartz and Senior Infrastructure Manager Jay Insley of Wheelabrator at the quarry site Thursday morning.

Kozloski said Wheelabrator representatives told him the company has made alternative plans.

“Their parent company has purchased another company with three dumpsites,” Kozloski said. “They don’t need to go forward with it [Peckham] for now.”

The dumpsites at the other location are expected to have a life span of about 30 years, Kozloski said.

“Bringing the ash to those sites means less traveling and road miles for them,” Kozloski said. Kozloski said believes the new sites are in Westchester County.

Wheelabrator is drafting a letter declaring the company’s intent to withdraw the Catskill project, Kozloski said.

Village President Vincent Seeley confirmed Friday that a letter from Wheelabrator is pending.

“We have not yet received an official letter from the company but we have verbal confirmation that the company has decided to take a different direction,” Seeley said.

“The real death [of the project] will be when they retract the application from DEC,” Seeley said.

Two Wheelabrator officials, Schwartz and Director of Communications & Community Engagement Michelle Nadeau did not return multiple calls for comment.

The town has not received direct confirmation of Wheelabrator’s change of heart, Town Supervisor Doreen Davis said.

“We are hopeful to get an official statement,” she said, adding that the town will share any confirmation on its website.

“Had it advanced in any formal way, the project would have gone through a review process,” Davis said. “We support nothing that would pollute the town or beyond.”

Seeley said he hopes the activist movement spurred by the project can be put to good use.

“I am relieved that this is over but now I see this as an opportunity to take all that energy and focus it on what we feel are appropriate uses [for Catskill] that benefit our community, protect the environment and provide a sustainable economic platform,” Seeley said.

Seeley wants to see the community and local government work together more in the future.

“There should be a more collaborative approach the next time a project people have an objection to is brought forward,” Seeley said. “We need to work together to decide what’s right for our community.”

Judith Enck, former regional administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has been a leader in the fight against Wheelabrator.

Enck said she is cautiously optimistic about the company’s news.

“It is important Wheelabrator confirms publicly,” she said. “They owe it to the people of Catskill to say if they’re pulling out or not. If they are, this is a stunning grassroots victory.”

Riverkeeper Director of Advocacy and Engagement Jessica Roff agreed.

“If Wheelbrator/Macquarie is indeed pulling out, that’s smart. They’d be wise to avoid the Hudson River Valley entirely with this dangerous plan,” Roff said.

Wheelabrator submitted its application to DEC in early 2017, Enck said.

“They had a three-year head start,” she said. “Once a local news story ran on this in February, people mobilized and in the course of three months, we convinced a company like Wheelabrator they’re not welcome here.”