Science-Based Soil and Water Sampling Plan Underway to Help Address Community Concerns Regarding Potential Impacts from Norlite
DEC and DOH to Hold a Virtual Public Information Session on Oct. 21
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and Cohoes Mayor William Keeler today announced the start of the State's new comprehensive soil and water sampling initiative to help determine if contaminants are present in communities around the Norlite facility in the city of Cohoes. The start of the sampling builds on DEC's ongoing efforts to ensure this community and the environment are protected and in response to community concerns about the past incineration of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) containing Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), as well as other past practices of the facility.
"DEC is committed to providing Mayor Keeler and the entire Cohoes community with the information they want and need by fully investigating the potential impacts of Norlite's past incineration of firefighting foam. We want to be sure DEC has the best available data to guide our continued actions and oversight of this facility," Commissioner Seggos said. "DEC will continue working closely with community residents on our comprehensive sampling initiative and as part of our rigorous review of Norlite's operations to ensure the public remains engaged, informed, and has access to our experts to help address concerns."
"Soil and water testing is an essential step in getting our community answers they want and deserve about the health and environmental impacts of incinerating hazardous materials, including AFFF firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals, at Norlite," Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler said. "We appreciate the time and energy Commissioner Seggos, DEC staff, and DOH staff have invested responding to our concerns, launching this testing initiative, and engaging in a comprehensive permit review."
In 2019, DEC directed Norlite to cease thermal treatment and disposal of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) containing PFAS compounds after the facility temporarily suspended operations. Since that time, DEC has worked with local and state elected officials to assess the potential impacts of Norlite's past incineration of firefighting foam. DEC secured a commitment from Norlite to suspend all processing of AFFF materials until additional testing is conducted and establishes high temperature incineration destroys these compounds. In addition, DEC has directed Norlite that the future incineration of any substances, including emerging contaminants like PFAS, not previously addressed in its permits, will trigger a requirement to seek a permit modification prior to processing in the facility.
In July, DEC announced the new comprehensive soil and water sampling initiative to help determine if contaminants are present in the environment surrounding the Norlite facility. During the sampling initiative, in coordination with the State Department of Health (DOH), DEC will collect soil and water samples from upwind, downwind, and background locations to study the potential aerial deposition of contaminants like metals and PFAS.
DEC experts will carefully review sampling results to determine if there are environmental impacts in the areas studied, and the results will guide any additional on-the-ground investigations and actions in the future. Over the past several weeks, DEC and DOH worked to secure property access agreements for locations where sampling will occur and worked closely with Mayor Keeler, city of Cohoes officials, and community members to ensure the sampling provides the most effective data and addresses public concerns and questions.
In addition to the sampling initiative, Commissioner Seggos announced DEC and DOH will hold a virtual public information session on Oct. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss the State's extensive efforts to protect communities from potential PFAS contamination, upcoming sampling of soil and groundwater in surrounding areas, previous drinking water testing conducted by DEC and DOH, and DEC's ongoing enhanced Norlite permit review process. Local residents and other interested stakeholders are encouraged to attend and ask questions. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, DEC and DOH presentations will be made virtually to individuals with internet capabilities and be broadcast at the Cohoes Music Hall for individuals without internet access to view the presentations and connect with a DEC facilitator who can assist with submitting questions to the online presenters. Additional presentation details and information about how to register to join either virtually or in person will be available soon.
More information about the comprehensive sampling and additional Norlite updates can be found at DEC's website.