COHOES, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has ordered the Norlite facility in Cohoes to stop activities that create off-site dust. The DEC said the dust is impacting neighboring properties, as well as affecting air quality.

“Norlite continues to show a blatant disregard for the surrounding community by allowing dust to blow off their property, and if they do not address these violations, the state of New York will do everything in its power to shut them down,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “This cannot continue and we are working on multiple legal fronts to stop these violations and require necessary facility upgrades to prevent any future impacts to the people of Cohoes.”

Norlite is a hazardous waste incineration facility. The DEC started a study of the off-site dust in spring 2021 following concerns of residents at the Saratoga Sites complex. The dust participles showed that Norlite had been violating DEC’s air pollution control regulations and permit conditions.

“We’re not resting until the job is done and this facility stops polluting the dust into this community. And it is a major issue that we are focused on and that is why I think in no certain terms you need to stop doing this or we’ll shut you down,” Sean Mahar, Executive Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

According to DEC, “operations at the facility must continue to meet all applicable permit conditions, and continued violations will result in additional actions including fines or a full shutdown of plant operations. 

“So we put them on notice and they have to reply to this notice of violation letting us know what they are going to do and we’re going to hold them accountable,” Mahar, “if they fail to come back to us with anything that is not suitable from our perspective we’re ready to take the next step in the process which is pursuing additional actions.” 

The DEC issued Norlite a Notice of Violation that requires the facility to immediately cease and desist actions resulting in dust leaving the property. The notice also requires Norlite to develop a plan to prevent dust from leaving the site. Penalties for these violations could rise to hundreds of thousands of dollars, ranging up to $22,500 for each day the violations continue, said the DEC.

DEC is requiring Norlite to:

  • Submit a plan to DEC within 60 days for structures to prevent dust from leaving the facility
  • Install and operate new off-site air monitoring equipment
  • Increase recording, reporting, and training requirements regarding off-site dust
  • Install weather equipment and conduct daily observations for any particulate impacts at Saratoga Sites

On February 1, Cohoes announced that it planned on buying and demolishing the Saratoga Sites public housing complex. The Cohoes Housing Authority is in the process of moving the residents out of the complex.

Norlite issued this statement on the issue:

Norlite is actively working on dust mitigation measures at our facility in Cohoes. For months, we have sought New York State approval to move ahead with detailed, comprehensive plans we submitted to New York State last October 15. We are required, and quite prepared, to coordinate with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. In the time since our plans were submitted, the dust-mitigation equipment we proposed could have been ordered and installed. While we know of no credible evidence that the dust poses a risk to our community, Norlite has been and will continue to be fully responsive and cooperative in seeking a comprehensive solution that satisfies the concerns of state and local officials.

Norlite

Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler also released a statement:

“The regulatory action against Norlite, announced today by the DEC, is welcome news to the residents of Cohoes and the surrounding area. The DEC findings about particulates blowing from Norlite’s operations into Saratoga Sites and the surrounding neighborhoods are concerning but not surprising. 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. 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. I applaud DEC Commissioner Seggos and his team for the progress they have made today. This announcement is an important step in the process of holding Norlite accountable and improving the quality of life in our city. The next step is up to Norlite. For months officials at the company have said they want to be a good neighbor. They can start by covering the piles, containing their fugitive dust, and following all of the laws and regulations that come with incinerating hazardous waste.”

Mayor Bill Keeler

More information about the Norlite facility can be found on the DEC website.