ATHENS — A proposed construction and demolition debris processing facility along the waterfront has residents on edge Tuesday.
Athens Stevedoring & Environmental Development LLC is proposing to import 8,400 tons of C&D materials each week to a 6.1-acre site off North Washington Street.
After processing in Athens, the materials will be exported by truck to locations in state Department of Environmental Conservation Region 3, which includes Ulster, Dutchess, Sullivan, Orange, Putnam, Westchester and Rockland counties; Region 4 which includes Delaware, Greene, Columbia, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Albany, Schoharie, Montgomery and Otsego counties; Region 5 which includes Saratoga, Washington, Fulton, Hamilton, Essex, Franklin and Clinton counties; Region 6 which includes Oneida, Herkimer, Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties; and Region 7 which includes Oswego, Onondaga, Madison, Cortland, Cayuga, Tompkins, Tioga, Broome and Chenango counties.
“We’re following it very closely,” Village Trustee Joshua Lipsman said. “It is a matter of deep concern for us. We will be working diligently to get the right outcome for our community and treat all parties with respect and equal consideration.”
The village board was informed about the project by a citizens group called Keep it Greene, which formed in response to Wheelabrator Technologies proposing to construct an ash monofill in Catskill, trucking in 445,000 tons of waste per year from its incinerators.
The village is working to gather more details about the project, Lipsman said.
“We have some concerns but we are not sure yet what the complete details are,” he said.
Depending upon the nature of the project, it may go before the village’s Waterfront Advisory Committee or the planning board, Lipsman said.
“We can’t be a lead agency until, a) we know it’s going to happen and, b) we know what it is,” Lipsman said.
The village is in the midst of up updating its 13-year-old comprehensive plan.
“One of the most important aspects of the comprehensive plan is what we want our waterfront to look like,” Lipsman said. “Our position will be stronger when we have our community vision expressed in the comprehensive plan.”
The proposed facility is adjacent to the Athens Boat Launch.
“The state boat launch is very popular among the area boaters,” resident Diana Abadie said. “The facility’s planned operating hours are Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Even the beauty of a fishing expedition or kayak trip could be disrupted by noise and dust.”
Abadie is also concerned about the safety of having barges in the area and the increase in truck traffic.
The project’s most recent application to DEC in January includes a $529,400 surety bond, in the event that the facility has to close.
In a letter dated July 29, 2019, R. Daniel Mackay, deputy commissioner for Historic Preservation with the state Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Office, determined that no significant archaeological or historic resources would be impacted by the project.
“These comments are those of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and relate only to historic/cultural resources,” Mackay wrote. “They do not include potential environmental impacts to New York Parkland that may be involved in or near your project. Such impacts must be considered as part of the environmental review of the project pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act and its implementing regulations.”
A state freshwater wetland and its 100-foot regulated adjacent area is partially located on the site, according to correspondence between DEC and Athens Stevedoring & Environmental Development LLC.
“It does not look like the proposed area will be located within the wetland or its 100-foot regulated adjacent area, but the applicants should confirm that this will not be the case and that stockpiles will somehow be contained so as not to allow for any runoff, sedimentation or leachate into these areas,” according to the email correspondence.
“This project potentially has a serious environmental impact,” former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck said.
Enck believes a full environmental review in accordance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act should be completed, with a positive determination, so that an environmental impact statement must be prepared, she said.
“Before anything else happened, the applicant should hold a community meeting,” Enck said. “This should not happen behind closed doors.”
The public needs to be vigilant about this project, Enck said.
“This is not the sort of thing you want to let slide by,” she said. “The municipality needs to jump on this immediately. They should have been consulted before it even got this far.”
If the village has a Coastal Zone Management plan, the project will need approval from the state Department of State, she added.
The location is particularly concerning, Enck said.
“Can we think of a worse thing to put on the waterfront?” she said.
To keep soil fill separate from the solid waste — asphalt, rock or concrete — the facility would store the soil separately, according to correspondence between Athens Stevedoring & Environmental Development LLC and DEC.
“Athens Stevedoring & Environmental Development LLC will not accept soil fill material that has been combined with asphalt, rock or concrete fragments,” according to the letter.
Allocco Recycling will sample the soil prior to it being loaded on the barge, according to the letter.
“Barges will be covered when transporting solid waste to the Athens Terminal and trucks will be covered when transporting material to the final location in NYSDEC Regions 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7,” according to the letter.
Each solid waste material will be transported separately by barge to ensure the soil fill remains uncontaminated.
“C&D debris is not just dirt and rocks,” Enck said. “It’s called ‘cocktailing,’ where toxic substances are blended in.”
These substances can include lead paint and shingles containing asbestos, Enck said.
“When C&D materials get wet, it causes odor problems,” she added.
Enck wonders about a perceived increase in these types of facilities.
“Why are we seeing all of these C&D projects close to the river and in the Upper Hudson Valley?” she said.
One possibility is an increase in construction in the city, she said.
“New York City is going through a building boom,” she said. “There are no landfills in New York City. That material goes somewhere. A lot of that is going upstate.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a revised version of this story.