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January 29, 2015

Public Housing Tenants Object to Sewage Sludge Incinerator at Port of Albany

Call NY State’s failure to inform community of proposed permit and lack of environmental review “shameful”

Contacts

Christopher Amato, Earthjustice, (518) 860-3696

Albany, NY

Residents of a public housing development in Albany’s South End are taking action against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for failing to inform the community of a proposed permit to allow incineration of sewage sludge at the Port of Albany. The permit would allow emissions of a variety of air pollutants, some of which are highly toxic, including dioxins, furans, mercury, hydrogen chloride, cadmium, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates, sulfur dioxide, and beryllium. In a letter sent today to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, residents criticized DEC’s decision to exempt the project from environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act and called upon the agency to conduct a study of the cumulative health impacts of pollution from all Port of Albany operations.

The letter, sent by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice on behalf of the Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants Association and Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, states that DEC’s failure to inform the community of the proposed permit and its determination not to conduct an environmental review of the project without first consulting the community violates the Department’s Environmental Justice Policy. Noting that the sewage sludge incinerator was identified by DEC last year as a source of toxic air contaminants potentially affecting Albany’s South End neighborhood, the letter urges DEC to conduct an assessment of the cumulative impacts on the community of air pollution from the Port of Albany, including pollution from crude oil operations of Global Companies, LLC and Buckeye Partners, LP.

Charlene Benton, president of the Ezra Prentice Homes Tenants Association, said, “Every day we are breathing toxic pollution from the Port of Albany, but DEC apparently doesn’t think that our families deserve to be told about it. DEC ignored us when Global and Buckeye expanded their crude oil operations and didn’t do any environmental review, and now the same thing has happened with the sewage sludge incinerator. This is shameful. Why does DEC insist on ignoring us?”

Roger Downs, Conservation Director of Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, said, “Last summer, DEC informed the public that the sewage sludge incinerator is a source of toxic air pollution that could be affecting the South End community. Now we are told it is of no significance. Citizens of Albany's South End deserve answers to their respiratory problems - not a regulatory shell game where individual polluters aren't held responsible for their contribution to collective harm.”

“Unfortunately, DEC apparently has a blind spot when it comes to complying with its own Environmental Justice Policy,” said Christopher Amato, an attorney at Earthjustice. “The families who live, work and go to school in Albany’s South End deserve to be informed about all pollution sources affecting the air they breathe. It is unbelievable that the Department is poised to approve yet another source of air pollution at the Port of Albany without conducting any environmental review or assessing health impacts on the local community.”

Read the letter to DEC Commissioner Martens.

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.