LAFARGE PETITION DRIVE GATHERS STEAM
* Hearing Thursday at 7 pm on company's tire-burn plan
* Residents express concerns about health effects, technology choices, enforcement and alternatives
* Towns and citizens still waiting for DEC response on extension of public comment period
BETHLEHEM & HUDSON -- With an important public hearing approaching on Thursday night, a petition citing serious reservations about Lafarge's plan to burn nearly 5 million tires in its Albany County cement kiln has garnered over 600 signatures, both online and on paper. Signers include residents in Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer and other Hudson Valley counties, as well as others downwind of the plant in neighboring states.
The petition, created by Friends of Hudson in consultation with residents throughout the region expresses serious concerns about the practice of burning tires, and about whether the old, wet-process Lafarge plant (formerly known as Atlantic Cement and Blue Circle Cement) is prepared to handle the added challenges of tire-burning.
The full text of the petition can be read and signed online by clicking HERE.
To get more information about the proposal, click HERE.
The petition requests that State officials "fully address the serious, long-standing compliance problems at the Ravena plant... before moving forward with any consideration of tire-burning at this troubled facility."
In addition to citizen concerns, public officials including members of the Rensselaer County Legislature, as well as the Town of Chatham, the Village of East Nassau, the Village and Town of Kinderhook, and the Town of Stuyvesant have called for an extension of the deadline for written comments beyond the original September 2nd deadline. Several towns were not notified by DEC of the beginning of the comment period, despite previous written requests to be added to the notification list.
GROUP STANDS BY AND EXTENDS ANALYSIS OF PROBLEMS AT LAFARGE
The Lafarge Ravena facility is well-known as one of the largest polluters in the State, and has a history of compliance problems, having received a fine of $276,000 from New York State regulators in 2001. Since its taken over by Lafarge in April of that year, plant records obtained under the Freedom of Information Law from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation show a steep and steady increase in deviations from the company's air permit, but no further violations cited by the State.
Friends of Hudson stands by its expert analysis of worsening conditions at the facility, despite strong denials from the DEC. The group has taken steps to re-verify these findings, and is still waiting for the DEC staff to agree to a meeting to discuss the data. Attorneys for the group have bolstered these findings with additional research which it expects to present at the Thursday's public hearing, which begins at 7 pm at the Becker Elementary School in Bethlehem at 1146 Route 9W.
"You don't have to be either an expert or a resident of Ravena to participate in the hearing," noted Friends of Hudson deputy director Susan Falzon. "This is an opportunity for individuals to let the State know who you are, where you live, what you value about the area, and that you are concerned about Lafarge's ability to burn 5,000,000 tires without harming our families and communities' health. It's important that people come out, so that the State doesn't just let this slip through unquestioned."
Friends of Hudson has continued to work with Camp Dresser & McKee, the global engineering firm which advised its challenges to the massive, coal-burning St. Lawrence Cement project in Columbia County, as well as other noted experts in the field. It is the only citizens group ever represented by CDM, which is generally known for consulting to large industries.
PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE INVOKED
"Given the health risks involved, the quality of Friends of Hudson's experts, and also the organization's history of successful challenges to both a waste processing plant and a major cement plant, I hope that DEC staff will look on this data as a helpful counterbalance to the company's claims," said Warren Collins, a retired research biologist and a longtime Friends member, who lives downwind of the Lafarge plant in Kinderhook. "The comments of the public and experts deserve equal consideration."
"We apply the Precautionary Principle to proposals like this," added Falzon. "The applicant has the burden of proof to demonstrate that it will do no harm, and the State has an obligation to err on the safe side. The review process must be open and fair, taking into account a wide spectrum of alternatives. We'd like to see DEC go one step farther, by working with us and Lafarge to conduct a full investigation of existing conditions at Ravena before considering such a risky idea."
HEALTH CONCERNS AND ALTERNATIVES ON RESIDENTS' MINDS
In a recent presentation at the Bethlehem school, Falzon pointed out that the NYS Department of Transportation in collaboration with DEC, the Office of General Services, and other State agencies have announced a project to eliminate some 35 million tires from dangerous stockpiles throughout the State by incorporating them into public works projects, such as road building.
"The DOT's separate plan to use tires for roads is a genuinely ‘beneficial use,' and we applaud such efforts," said Friends' executive director Sam Pratt. "This shows that there are far better ways of solving our used tire issues than incineration. As the saying goes, the solution to pollution is not dilution. We urge the Pataki administration to continue working on those more forward-looking solutions, while taking a much harder look at the existing problems at Lafarge before adding new risks to its fuel mix."
Langdon Winner, a North Chatham resident and professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, notes that "Among the noxious airborne substances that are scheduled to land upon homes, schools, farms, and watersheds in this area from LaFarge's plume are PCBs, PAHs, dioxins, furans, and several toxic heavy metals, including arsenic and lead. ... The number of used tires in America is an important social and environmental problem. But at present there are already ingenious ways to put the tires to use in road construction and other applications, including applications widely recognized by public agencies in New York. Each day, research and invention discover new possibilities for using these wastes in creative ways."
For more information, including directions to the hearing, please contact Susan Falzon at (518) 822-0334 or email Susan by clicking HERE.