PFAS incineration in New York spurs legislation, loss of federal contracts

Read the full story in Waste Dive.

Ongoing controversy over toxic chemical contamination linked to an incinerator in Cohoes, New York could spur new lawmaker action. Testing done by David Bond, a Bennington College environmental studies professor, and his students found PFAS in soil and surface water near a facility run by Norlite Corp., a company that makes a ceramic aggregate material. 

Norlite’s incinerator has previously accepted PFAS-laden aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), sparking concerns that incinerators spread the chemicals, rather than breaking them down. When the findings were presented on April 27, Bond told reporters that “far from destroying AFFF, Norlite’s facility appears to be raining down a witch’s brew” of PFAS onto nearby areas. 

The controversy has drawn the attention of lawmakers on a local and federal level, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who is seeking a federal probe by the U.S. EPA and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That push comes after a bipartisan coalition of more than 80 House of Representatives members called on the House Transportation Committee to restrict industrial discharges of PFAS, a move that could impact incinerators and landfills. 

UPDATE: June 22, 2020: Fallout from research finding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in soil and surface water near a Norlite Corp. plant in Cohoes, New York, resulted in the Department of Defense canceling contracts with Norlite to incinerate materials containing PFAS, the Wall Street Journal reported. And the Times-Union reported the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) told the company it may no longer incinerate PFAS-laden firefighting foam or AFFF. 

That DEC order comes shortly after the state legislature banned AFFF incineration in Cohoes. That bill is still awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature. 

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