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Local cement plant burns tires for fuel--DEC approves.

The local news media is increasingly not reporting important local news. A major example is the manner in which the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is handling the application by LaFarge Building Materials, Inc., a French company, and the world's largest cement manufacturer, to begin burning 4.8 million whole tires a year in its Ravena cement kilns on Route 9W. LaFarge hopes to reduce its cost of operations by replacing twenty percent of its coal and coke fuel with whole tires.

LaFarge asserts that if the project is approved, air pollution would decrease from present levels. The DEC has stated that the likely emissions after the fuel change would be similar to those of today. However, even if the total volume of emissions declined, the types and quantities of specific emissions would indeed change--lead, dioxins, and chromium emissions would likely increase, perhaps by several times. Additional emissions of concern include mercury, arsenic, cadmium, benzenes, and particulate matter. Some of the likely pollutants are not regulated; many are toxic, known to cause birth defects, and/or are carcinogenic.

Emissions can be inhaled, settle on the ground or in surface waters, come u in plants (food crops), and be taken in by farm animals, injuring them and people who consume animal products in their diet, or who drink from local water supplies. With many air toxins, it is difficult to link the emission source with a disease in someone. However, this does not mean there is no cause-effect relationship.

This past July, the DEC issued a "negative declaration" saying the state agency "has determined" that the LaFarge project "will not have a significant effect on the environment and that a Draft Environmental Impact Statement will not be prepared."

DEC has refused to explain why someone must submit an environmental impact statement (EIS) to build a small subdivision, but when LaFarge applies to burn almost five million whole tires a year in cement kilns directly across a road from two schools, it does not need to submit an EIS. The huge size of the LaFarge proposal should mandate a full environmental review.

At recent DEC hearings (Aug 25th and Sept 21st), many of the speakers were stunned and outraged that DEC had issued a negative declaration. We said it is "unacceptable", "incomprehensible", and "insulting", and we demanded that it be rescinded, a positive declaration issued, and a thorough environmental review initiated.

Many of the speakers also requested that DEC extend the public comment period that ended on October 3rd and urged that hearings be held in Columbia County. Some speakers said DEC refused our requests to be added to the list of interested parties.

DEC has not acknowledged that its own willingness and competence to regulate is a major issue in this proceeding. Does DEC have the trained staff, equipment, funding, and authority to effectively monitor LaFarge? Would DEC shut LaFarge down if emissions were above permitted levels? If DEC cannot or will not add people to the interested party list, how can we believe the DEC hearing officer when he said that all comments received are important and will be considered?

By issuing a negative declaration and refusing to hold even one hearing on the east side of the Hudson River, the DEC has belittled and disrespected the serious health concerns of residents (and their local governments) who live only a few miles downwind of LaFarge. DEC has generated a considerable amount of unnecessary anger toward itself, and sparked a perception that the agency has prejudged the LaFarge project.
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Title Annotation:Opinions and Letters to the Editor!
Author:Ellis, Thomas
Publication:The Informed Constituent (Albany, NY)
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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