DEC Announces New Actions to Further Restrict Norlite Facility’s Incineration of Firefighting Foam and Emerging Contaminants

Albany NY (6/18/2020) – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced new actions to further restrict the incineration of firefighting foam that contains PFAS compounds at the Norlite facility in Cohoes, New York. In a letter to Norlite, LLC, and its corporate affiliate Tradebe Treatment and Recycling, LLC., DEC informed Norlite that it intends to consider the company’s forthcoming permit renewals as new permits requiring expanded review, and that the company will be required to conduct expanded environmental justice outreach to provide the community with the opportunity to comment on the overall facility operations and potential environmental impacts. DEC has also confirmed that Defense Logistics Agency’s Disposition Services has terminated the aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) incineration contract with Tradebe.

“New York State is unwavering in our commitment to protect communities like the city of Cohoes from potential exposure to emerging contaminants and the actions announced today will ensure this community has the information and the tools necessary to assist DEC’s efforts to ensure Norlite is a good neighbor,” Commissioner Seggos said. “While DEC and local leaders have stopped the incineration of PFAS materials at Norlite, and even with the recent termination of the federal contract, DEC is not letting up and is partnering with this community to refocus our attention on overall operations at this facility. By regarding Norlite’s permit renewals as a new applications, and requiring this facility to expand and improve community engagement, DEC is ensuring a transparent process that prioritizes community participation to protect area residents and the environment.”

DEC directed Norlite to cease thermal treatment and disposal of AFFF containing PFAS compounds after the facility temporarily suspended its operations at the end of 2019. Since that time, DEC has worked with local and state elected officials, including the Mayor of Cohoes William Keeler, to assess the potential impacts of Norlite’s past incineration of firefighting foam. DEC secured an agreement with Norlite to suspend all processing of AFFF materials until additional testing is conducted to demonstrate that high temperature incineration is a safe and effective method of AFFF disposal. Today’s letter reiterates this directive and in addition, DEC has informed Norlite that the future incineration of any substances, including emerging contaminants, not previously addressed in their permits will trigger a requirement to seek a permit modification prior to processing in the facility.

New York State is also developing a sampling program in Cohoes to determine if surface soil and surface water contamination resulting from the incineration of PFAS-containing materials at Norlite is present. Earlier this spring, DEC and the state Department of Health (DOH) conducted sampling of the Cohoes and Green Island municipal water supplies to determine if PFAS concentrations in water have changed over time. This sampling confirmed that there have been no changes to these water supplies. DEC is now evaluating next steps on additional soil and water sampling to further the state’s investigation out of an abundance of caution.

DEC has also just confirmed that the Defense Logistics Agency terminated its disposal contract with Tradebe Treatment and Recycling, LLC, Norlite’s corporate affiliate. The U.S. Navy had previously advised it is not sending new shipments of AFFF to Norlite following DEC’s announcement that incineration of these compounds will not occur at the facility without further scientific review. To advance the needed science to improve understanding of the potential for thermal destruction of PFAS compounds DEC continues to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development and DOH to develop performance testing protocols and advance a detailed analysis of ongoing and proposed thermal treatment research in other parts of the country. No testing will take place at the Norlite facility.

For the past several years, DEC and its partners in federal, state, and municipal government have been working to address concerns and mitigate risks regarding the potential environmental and public health impacts of PFAS, including but not limited to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Among these efforts, DEC has prioritized the removal and appropriate treatment and disposal of Class B firefighting foam such as AFFF containing PFAS compounds in order to avoid potential impacts to groundwater, surface waters, and drinking water supplies. The State of New York has recently enacted a ban against the use of AFFF that contains PFOA or PFOS and has spent tens of millions of dollars to date on remediation projects across the state involving the improper disposal of legacy AFFF in order to ensure the protection of public health and the environment from the actual and potential threats posed by PFOA or PFOS.

View a copy of DEC June 18, 2020 correspondence to Norlite: https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administration_pdf/norlitecorres.pdf

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