Legislators say new bills on the way to ban PFOA, PFOS burning

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COHOES, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Neighbors near a Cohoes company say they’re worried just how sick they could get if the plant keeps burning PFOA and PFOS chemicals.

“I’ll come home at night, and there’s like egg-like smells,” says Timothy Donovan.

Donovan says he’s lived next door to the Norlite construction plant for around 20 years. But recently, he’s noticed some changes to his family.

“I got a wife and kids, you know, that live here, and my daughter is starting to develop health conditions. I don’t want to think that it’s from over here, but it could be,” he explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

Norlite has a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to incinerate firefighting foam and other materials containing PFOA and PFOS, after the federal government recently recognized the health risks these chemicals cause and ordered their disposal. The process started in 2018, but was never disclosed to any of the surrounding city or town governments.

New York Assemblyman and former Cohoes mayor John McDonald says there are no laws that would have compelled Norlite LLC to disclose its burning practices. The company announced its kilns have been temporarily shut down and will be restarted in an experimental capacity to test the best methods to dispose of PFOA and PFOS.

Donovan says he’s been worried about the ash and smoke that floats down on the wind to their apartment complex just a few feet away.

“This stuff is in the air, you know? If it’s affecting us over here, I’m sure it’s affecting everywhere,” he says.

Lawmakers have the same concerns. Norlite representatives said in a statement to NEWS10 they’re closely monitoring research into whether or not burning causes the same or similar health issues as PFOA water contamination, but Senator Neil Breslin and Assemblyman McDonald say the same Norlite representatives told them that could take a very long time.

“I’m not ready to tell my constituents they have to wait years to find out whether they were subjected to illness unnecessarily,” Breslin says.

“We know it needs to be disposed of safely. We need to find out the best way to do that. We don’t need to be conducting the experiment in the homes and neighborhoods of 150,000 people here in the capital region,” McDonald says.

Breslin and McDonald announce they will introduce new legislation Monday to put a stop to the PFOA and PFOS burning.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin issued his own call to action Friday demanding Norlite, state and federal health agencies set up public meetings so that anyone who lives around the area can demand answers to their own questions.

“There is a need for clear and accurate information on the Norlite issue, and a meeting will help ensure questions from residents and others affected are answered quickly. Our residents deserve answers,” says McLaughlin.

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