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* In a new 55-0 vote, Columbia Memorial medical staff cite grave health risks associated with lowered stack

* CMH docs urge use of local wind data to fully assess potential harm to vulnerable patients

HUDSON, N.Y. — Raising grave new concerns about the potential public health impact of St. Lawrence Cement’s coal-fired proposal in Columbia County, doctors on the Medical Staff of Columbia Memorial Hospital voted 55-0 on Tuesday night to issue an updated resolution on the plant. The statement, released today by Medical Staff President Dr. Stuart Kaufman, reads in full:


SEPTEMBER 21, 2004

We the medical staff of CMH express our concerns regarding the latest modifications by St. Lawrence Cement Company of its proposed cement plant. The reduction of the plant stack and burying the plant deeper in the quarry for the intent of reducing visual impacts announced by the company in August 2004 will likely increase local pollutant concentrations in and around the hospital as well as result in increased fuel consumption. This would expose the vulnerable population of out patients with chronic respiratory and/or cardiac diseases to increased morbidity and mortality.

In light of the above concerns, as New York State proceeds with its recently announced review processes, we urge that these critical health concerns be analyzed, and we request that the State regulatory agencies fully assess the air and health impacts of this proposal including a detailed analysis of localized dispersion and concentration, using all available data. This should include local meteorological information which has been already gathered and should consider the most up to date guidelines, standards, technologies and information on the effects of the various pollutants on the well being of our patients and the local biosphere."

“The medical concerns of our local doctors, who we all rely upon to safeguard our health, emphasizes in the starkest terms the gravity of the threat that SLC poses to our community,” commented Friends of Hudson executive director Sam Pratt.

In March 2001, the medical staff voted 35 to 1 that St. Lawrence’s proposal to site a coal-burning facility approximately 1 mile from Columbia Memorial Hospital would pose a “serious risk to our community’s health.” After research by a task force within the staff, the doctors concluded that the Greenport proposal would result in “increased death rates expected for people with advanced heart and lung disease, increased cancer rates and worsening asthma in children.”

“With SLC wanting to burn 500 million pounds of coal every year, people with asthma and heart conditions need to know exactly where the local winds would carry these pollutants—not how they might fall in Albany.” Pratt said. “This statement from our medical community gives the Commissioner a strong new reason to reconsider the use of local wind data, because lowering the stack raises the ante on the health threat from this plant.”


In August 1999, SLC applied to the Greenport Planning Board for permission to erect a tower near it Route 9 offices for the stated purpose of collecting local meteorological data. The company specifically indicated that this data would be used to model pollution dispersion from the project. However, the company decided not to use that data, despite sending it for validation to the DEC, obtaining a waiver from U.S. EPA to use Albany wind data instead. Opponents contend that dispersion models using the local data will show unacceptably high concentration of regulated pollutants.

With St. Lawrence’s recent announcement of changes to its stack height, as well as new studies showing a strong “channeling” effect of winds in the area, opponents have renewed calls for use of SLC’s own locally-collected data in upcoming hearings recently ordered by DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty. Though Crotty up until now has deemed the Albany data adequate for these reviews, that decision does not reflect the proposed lowering of the stack and removal of a stage of the kiln.

The company’s prposed changes include reducing the height of the facility’s stack by 42 feet by removing one of five stages of its proposed kiln, and lowering the base elevation of the stack by 73 feet. Ironically, during the DEC’s “issues conference” on the project held in July and August 2001, company officials repeatedly stated that such measures to lessen visual impacts were infeasible due to the offsetting increase in pollutants.

Phil Lochbrunner, an engineer who was a vice president of SLC at the time, stated at the July 27, 2001 hearing before administrative law judges Helene Goldberger and Maria Villa that reducing the number of stages would result in more coal and water consumption, and greater pollution impacts:

Reducing the number of stages reduces the amount of heat that is transferred. The consequence of this is that additional fuel must be consumed to replace the heat that is lost, or allowed to escape from the system. This carries with it the consequence of increased NOx and CO emissions...

For the Greenport tower, removing one stage would result in approximately a 15 meter, or roughly 48 foot reduction in height. Removing the top stage would result in an increase in fuel consumption of approximately 6.2 percent, an increase in NOx emissions of 6.3 percent, and an increase in CO emissions of 6.5 percent. (Issues Conference Transcript, Volume 8, pp. 1575-6)

Similarly, St. Lawrence lead attorney Thomas West agreed with Lochbrunner that:
"The simple fact of the matter is we can't make the preheater tower smaller. To do so would be at a significant energy and environmental penalty, neither one of which is tolerable, and it means that that design alternative is not feasible." (Transcript, p. 1591)

"SLC has recently claimed that it can overcome these problems raised by its own consultants, but has provided no technical or engineering specifications to back those claims up—saying merely that it will rely on “vendor guarantees.”

When St. Lawrence Cement brought outside medical consultants to a press conference at the Greenport office in the Summer of 2002, it refused to allow doctors on the medical staff to attend.


Three distinct but united groups have each received full party status in New York StateÕs review of SLC's permit applications for the proposed industrial and mining complex in Columbia County: Friends of Hudson; The Hudson Valley Preservation Coalition (HVPC, led by Scenic Hudson); The Olana Partnership. These leading environmental groups of the Hudson Valley and numerous organizations from nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts are battling together to defeat this proposed project. In addition, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation League of New York State each have ÒamicusÓ status in these administrative proceedings.

Like the CMH doctors, the American Lung Association has announced its opposition to the project, saying that "The pollution belched by this coal-burning plant would not only trigger asthma attacks in children and cause serious respiratory problems in seniors with lung disease, it would put at risk the health of those of us who do not currently suffer from respiratory problems."