ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York Attorney General Letita James and Department of Environment Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos filed a lawsuit against Norlite to force the company to stop polluting the air with contaminants from its Cohoes Facility.
Recent air quality monitoring conducted by the state found the Cohoes facility is emitting contaminants at levels that increase the risk to the health and well-being of the surrounding community. In the complaint filed on October 11, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and DEC alleges Norlite has failed to protect the health and safety of neighboring residents and mitigate air pollution-causing emissions. “Norlite has had well over a year to come into compliance with our regulations and thus far they have not,” NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos says to reporters during a virtual press conference.
In a statement to NEWS10’s Conall Smith, Norlite LLC says: “Our top priority is the community where we have existed for over 65 years as well as the approximately 70 union employees who have worked day and night at the facility for decades, and that’s why we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on dust mitigation measures in the last 18 months. We have been working closely with our regulators on these issues. Some of the health-based standards mentioned in the complaint are not in our permits, but we look forward to continue working with state regulators on further action items. There are no studies that have demonstrated that there have been any adverse health effects linked to Norlite’s operations either among the employees or the community.”
Norlite’s Title V permit, which governs the facility’s operations in terms of air emissions and pollution, was up in 2020 and was still under review until recently. “We have suspended our review of that permit to allow these proceedings to move forward,” says the Commissioner Seggos. “The outcome of this enforcement action will very much dictate what steps we take next in terms of their Title V permit.”
While the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says it will do everything in its power to hold polluters like Norlite accountable, former regional EPA administrator Judith Enck says not enough is being done to protect residents of Saratoga Sites and the surrounding community of Cohoes from Norlite’s pollution.”
“I hope this is not one of many other legal actions that allow the company to contaminate the community. 56 tons of sharp, silica dust a year is unconscionable,” Enck says, “and if this was in a more affluent community, I think the Hochul administration would have taken steps to shut this facility down years ago.”
Attorney General James comments, “Pollution from the Norlite plant has put the health and welfare of those living in its shadow in danger,” “Despite this unrelenting harm, Norlite has consistently refused to take the appropriate measures necessary to control emissions and protect neighboring families. With today’s filing, Commissioner Seggos and I are taking action to protect the surrounding community by demanding an end to this flagrant noncompliance. Everyone should be able to open their windows and spend time outside without fear — we are committed to ending Norlite’s dangerous pollution and restoring safe, clean air to the neighborhoods that have suffered.”
Norlite is an aggregate manufacturing and hazardous waste incineration facility located at 628 South Saratoga Street in Cohoes, about 100 feet away from Saratoga Sites Apartments. Norlite generates about 56 tons of dust per year, which migrates into the surrounding community and pollutes the air. The dust has been found to contain particles and crystalline silica that can increase the risk for lung, heart, and nervous system diseases in sensitive individuals. DEC conducted a monitoring program at the facility in 2021and 2022 and found Norlite exceeded levels that protect against harmful health impacts.
As a result of the potentially harmful dust, Saratoga Sites Apartment residents have limited time outside, keep windows and doors closed and get air conditioners. The lawsuit includes numerous environmental violations issued by DEC for operations up to September 12, 2022. DEC’s enforcement actions include multiple consent orders and penalties against Norlite dating back to 1990, and New York state will continue to closely monitor the facility, collect additional data, and hold the facility accountable for any and all violations that occur during this legal process.