COHOES, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Norlite has been in the news quite a bit in the past couple of years over Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) violations, the burning of hazardous waste, and dust released into the air from operations. This includes six new violations and a cease-and-desist order from the DEC last week to stop operations that create off-site dust.
Cohoes Mayor William Keeler has been at odds with Norlite, working with the DEC to make more information available about Norlite’s violations and operations on the DEC’s website. Since taking office Mayor Keeler has also been working with the Cohoes Housing Authority (CHA) Board of Commissioners, Chairperson Mark Pascale, to relocate residents at the Saratoga Sites Apartments away from the effects of Norlite’s operations, according to the city’s Director of Operations, Theresa Bourgeois.
“For two years I have been urging Norlite to cover their piles and contain their fugitive dust. I have been sounding the alarm about what is contained in the company’s so-called block mix, and other dust coming from their operations,” Mayor Keeler said on Feb. 15 when the DEC announced its latest citations against Norlite. “In an effort to make our community safer, I urged the DEC to install air monitors and more closely track Norlite’s fugitive dust which area residents have complained about for decades.”
The CHA is in the process of working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for approval to relocate residents from the public housing complex. After the CHA gets the go-ahead from HUD to move residents at the Saratoga Sites Apartments, they will be able to sell the property.
The city announced they had sent a letter to CHA expressing interest in purchasing the property, but so has Norlite. Behan Communications handles public relations for Norlite. “CHA invited Norlite to offer a proposal as an adjoining property owner. Norlite offered a proposal to assume ownership once the Housing Authority helps residents move to new homes,” said Vice President, Bill Callen.
“It is vitally important that Norlite not be able to purchase this land. Even with residents of Saratoga Sites out of harm’s way, the company continues to pose an environmental and health risk to the rest of the community. Providing them room to expand their operations will only make things worse, for everyone but Norlite,” environmental advocates said in a letter to the CHA. The letter was also signed by four members of the Cohoes Common Council as well as Albany County Legislator, Sam Fein.
Cohoes has offered to pay $35,000 plus $600,000 to demolish the apartments. Norlite has offered $45,000 above the appraised value as well as the cost of demolition, removal of buildings, and other debris. If the city gets to purchase the property, they said they plan to get it shovel ready for “the best and highest industrial use at the appropriate time.”
Norlite said they would use the land to build a state-of-the-art research facility to develop waste recycling, reuse, and energy recovery technologies. “This research center would serve our customers and our related businesses in Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We also look forward to partnering with BOCES and local schools to use the lab to provide hands-on learning opportunities for STEM students,” the company said.
According to Bourgeois, CHA gets the final say on who will be able to purchase Saratoga Sites, but the city has no plans to rescind their offer despite Norlite’s interest. Inquiries to the CHA about the matter on Monday and Tuesday by NEWS10 went unanswered.