COHOES, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A judge signed an order on consent Wednesday morning that resolves a preliminary injunction filed by the New York State Attorney General’s Office against Norlite. The AG’s Office, along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, filed the suit against the company last October, with litigation ongoing.
The order includes the implementation of a new monitoring system that will allow the state to see dust emissions coming from the site in Cohoes.
Per the order, Norlite has 90 days to implement the emissions program that will, “Fully characterize the concentration of PM10 and silica that are migrating off the site.” That data must be available to the state in near-real time.
“Clearly it’s good news, it’s progress. It means Norlite has signed on for more air monitoring, greater transparency,” said Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler.
Thursday’s action also addresses parameters for emissions. Norlite must inform the public if three-hour averages hit certain thresholds, which each can pose different health risks to certain populations.
The order says alarms must be sounded if the concentration of PM10 recorded from the plan is at 380 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a one-hour average and 50 micrograms over a 24-hour average.
The order states in part, “Norlite shall implement any and all measures necessary to ensure the preceding thresholds are not exceeded.”
Keeler says this monitoring, and transparency to quickly see the data, can give the community peace of mind, “Knowing that that the thresholds aren’t being exceeded, or if they are exceeded, that DEC will immediately be on Norlite.”
Air monitoring in and around the site is nothing new. The DEC has had samples taken from areas of Saratoga Sites, a community situated in the shadow of the plant.
In 2021, DEC data shows that the one-hour average data exceeded the thresholds set forth in Wednesday’s order on several occasions, including three different times in August of that year.
The CEO of Norlite reacted to the judge’s order Wednesday morning:
“We are pleased to have reached this agreement on the specifics of an emissions program with the New York State Attorney General. We are especially pleased that this program has been developed in conjunction with the DEC. This agreement marks a new chapter for Norlite. I am now working with a team of experts on additional steps that can and will be implemented to make sure the Cohoes facility is the gold standard for manufacturing and for community involvement. Our mission is clear: we make strong, American-made products used to build bridges, buildings and ball parks while reducing waste and reducing the reliance on fossil fuels. How much do we reduce fossil fuel reliance? The Norlite plant uses waste that we all create in our daily lives to make the same amount of energy as twenty-four thousand tons of coal per year. I also want to thank our dedicated employees, many of them members of Teamsters as well as the Operating Engineers, who work day and night at the facility.”Ghia Rossi, Norlite CEO
The plant has had a troubled past, receiving several DEC violations in the past. Earlier this month, the DEC responded to two separate incidents there.
The DEC also released a statement in response to Wednesday’s order:
“Holding Norlite accountable for its impact on the surrounding communities, including frontline environmental justice neighborhoods, is a top priority for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Today, DEC and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) secured approval from the Albany County Supreme Court for a Preliminary Injunction and Consent Order against the Norlite facility in Cohoes, while litigation remains pending. The injunction and order require Norlite to undertake new air quality monitoring and reporting controls and to prevent exceeding DEC’s required emissions thresholds that protect the local community. These critical interim measures are responsive to public health-related concerns that arose from the State’s review of air quality data compiled as part of a comprehensive air quality monitoring program that began in 2021. These new measures directed by the Court will remain in effect during the State’s ongoing litigation against the facility.”NYSDEC
Wednesday’s order also requires Norlite to submit a report to the state for review and approval on how to operate the facility without exceeding emission thresholds.