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Worry follows Wheelabrator exit

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Residents wait in line outside the Catskill Community Center on Tuesday for a forum on a proposed ash landfill.
May 23, 2019 05:19 pm

Columbia-Greene Media

CATSKILL — Wheelabrator Technologies, a municipal waste combustion company, released a statement Wednesday that it is no longer interested in leasing property in Catskill.

But the company left a tiny bit of room for doubt.

“While we stand by the conclusions of our technical evaluation to date that the site was capable of meeting and exceeding state environmental requirements, we no longer wish to engage in this project at this time,” Wheelabrator President and CEO Robert Boucher wrote to Catskill Town Supervisor Doreen Davis. “We appreciate your consideration and the efforts of the Greene County Industrial Development Agency in working with our team and we wish the Catskill community and its citizens all the best.”

The final step in the withdrawal will come when Wheelabrator retracts its application to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck said.

“The ‘at this time’ phrase is a worry,” Enck said. “The key thing to look for is, does Wheelabrator withdraw their Catskill permit to DEC Region 4.”

Wheelabrator representatives used similar wording when meeting with Catskill Village Trustee Joseph Kozloski last week.

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

The other dumpsites are expected to last about 30 years, Kozloski said.

Wheelabrator submitted its application to DEC in early 2017 to establish an ash landfill on 158 acres on Route 9W, owned by Peckham Materials Inc. Wheelabrator proposed to lease the land from Peckham and transport 445,000 tons of ash annually from its incinerator plants in Peekskill, Poughkeepsie and Hudson Falls to the site, where metals would be separated from the ash.

After months of pushback from the community, Wheelabrator formally announced Wednesday that it will not pursue the project.

“I am writing to inform you Wheelabrator Technologies is withdrawing its proposal to site a regional ash monofill and recycling center at the former Peckham Materials quarry,” Boucher told Davis.

The site was suitable for the project, but the company no longer wants to continue the review process, Boucher wrote.

The application’s status with DEC is listed as incomplete.

“DEC determined this proposal was incomplete in July 2018,” according to officials. “If additional information is submitted, DEC will continue to rigorously evaluate these applications to protect public health and the environment and to ensure all applicable standards are met.”

Riverkeeper Director of Community Engagement & Outreach Jessica Roff was thrilled to see that a letter had been released confirming Wheelabrator was withdrawing from Catskill, she said.

“We remain vigilant and concerned about the company moving elsewhere instead,” Roff said. “The community is engaged and interested in informing other communities about the risks of these types of projects.”

Catskill’s grassroots efforts delivered a clear message to Wheelabrator, Roff said.

“We made it clear to them they could not easily sneak in once people understood the risks to public health and to the river,” Roff said.

Catskill Village President Vincent Seeley wants the community come up with safer alternatives.

“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 that benefit our community, protect the environment and provide a sustainable economic platform,” Seeley said.