NoBurnBroome.com Newsletter #3

Four letters (PFAS) May Have Saved Endicott
 
Reflections on watching the Village Board meeting last night (June 1).
By Paul Connett, PhD
 
I t was John Ruspantini, a member for the NoBurnBroome science team, who brought the attention of local officials and legislators to the presence of a PFAS (an electrolyte) in some lithium-ion batteries scheduled for burning in the SungEel project proposed for Endicott. PFAS stands for P er F luorinated A lkyl S ubstance. These are substances that contain anything from 1 to 8 carbon atoms, all of which are occupied by fluorine atoms (that's what the " p er" in perfluorinated means) - with the whole entity attached to a water soluble group. This combination confers on the substance a deadly combination of properties as far as the human species is concerned. The C-F bond is incredibly stable to heat, which makes them exceedingly difficult to destroy in incineration and also  incredibly stable to biological breakdown, which makes them exceedingly persistent in the environment where they accumulate in the soil, in water and in the human body. They have been dubbed "Forever chemicals" and the "Dioxins of the Twenty First Century."
 
These substances have contaminated water supplies in many places in the USA and have agencies like the DEC and the EPA very worried. Two NY communities have been rocked by their presence -Hoosick Falls and Cohoes. In the latter community they have been importing anti- fire-fighting-foam (AFFF) to burn in an incinerator - unsuccessfully, and contaminating the local environment with PFAS in the process.
 
This has made the DEC supersensitive to PFAS, so when they heard that lithium-ion batteries may contain one of these substances they put a halt on the air permit for the SungEel project to allow more investigation.
 
As an aside, NoBurnBroome has been extremely lucky to have the support of Judith Enck, a former administrator of Region 2 of the US EPA - who has been involved with all three communities (Hoosick Falls, Cohoes and Endicott). Judith and her husband Mark Dunlea were involved in winning the support of 154 environmental and social action groups for our cause. They include 81 groups from NY state, 22 from around the USA, and 51 from other countries. With Judith's help the whole world is now watching what happens in Endicott. Judith currently heads up the group Beyond Plastics and teaches at Bennington College, Vermont.
 
Back to last night .
 
We heard the startling news that this PFAS issue and the DEC's response has led the Mayor and her supporters to rethink their position on the zoning change designed to allow SungEel into Endicott. Their attitude now is "leave it to the DEC to sort things out with SungEel." Meanwhile - regardless of the outcome of the petition to require a "super" majority vote of 4 to 1 on the matter - they have "promised" (with no formal vote yet) to rescind the zoning change law ( which they voted 3 to 2 for on May 7 ).
 
Trustee Ted Warner's response to this change of mind was , "I was stunned by Cheryl Chapman and the Mayor's drastic opinion change after disrupting the entire village for six weeks in pushing the law."
 
They Village Board also agreed in principle (but with no formal vote) to suggestions made by trustee Ted Warner for a forum which would involve three parties - the Village Board, experts for SungEel and experts selected by opponents - for a technical discussion or debate on the merits and dangers of the SungEel operation and its suitability for Endicott. 
 
A third positive move was the idea that the village appoint a watchdog committee (1 to 3 experts) to oversee the DEC-SungEel developments and advise the village on possible outcomes. John Ruspantini was mentioned by name as being a candidate for membership of such a committee. John had already been helpful in this respect because of his knowledge of PFAS. Again, no formal vote was taken.
 
So, three very positive developments . But without formal votes, this is still a "maybe” of a win category. But for No Burn Broome the real victory here is the community now has TIME. The Endicott community can hear more considered advice on the suitability (or otherwise) of the SungEel high temperature/incineration of lithium-ion battery materials in Endicott. The rush is over. But we will have to wait a little longer before we know whether No Burn Broome has achieved a final victory.
 
After the meeting Village Trustee Patrick Dorner said , "I went into the meeting to get the law rescinded. The 3 other options discussed in the Thursday executive session were not going to be acceptable. When the mayor came out of the gate with the rescind comment, I was floored, surprised, and happy. Then I started to think, what are they up to. I guess we will take this one and pray that nothing sneaky is still going on behind the scenes."
 
From Paul Connett for the team at NoNurnBroome.com
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