PFAS in water and soil samples found around areas close to Norlite

Regional

COHOES, N.Y. (NEWS10) — At the beginning of March, Bennington College conducted a water and soil study of four sites in close proximity to Norlite, in Cohoes. The college was testing for PFAS contamination upon learning that Norlite burned firefighting foam in 2018-2019 as an energy source.

The college said the samples showed PFAS contamination commonly associated with the use of firefighting foam or Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) which include PFOA/PFOS.

“The results of this preliminary research suggest the burning of AFFF at Norlite is not destroying
these dangerous chemicals so much as redistributing them into nearby poor and working-class
neighborhoods,” the report said.

“With these new findings, DEC must step in and stop the quack science experiment they’ve allowed to unfold atorlite. Does anyone really think spewing toxic chemicals into poor and working-class neighborhoods is a scientifically sound solution to the dangers of perflourinated compounds? Incineration of AFFF must stop now,” said Associate Director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College, David Bond.

In a statement, the Department of Environmental Conservation said, “New York continues to lead the nation in addressing PFAS threats, and any insinuation to the contrary is absurd. DEC is reviewing the data released today, and it appears to be consistent with low background levels observed in urban areas in emerging scientific studies.”

Since discovering Norlite was incinerating PFAS waste in late 2019, DEC has not allowed the incineration of firefighting foam at Norlite without additional testing to ensure the destruction of PFAS compounds. The facility is not currently incinerating this waste. Recall why the foam must be safely disposed of in the first place—New York State banned its use after determining it posed a threat to water supplies.  And now DEC is suing the manufacturers of firefighting foam to hold them accountable for the damage their products have caused. We will not relent on our rigorous, science-based effort to protect New Yorkers.

DEC’s on-site monitor is providing strict oversight of this facility to ensure all operations are protective of human health and the environment.

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

AFFF is made up of 250 PFAS compounds and has a specific fingerprint. In a teleconference Monday, Bond said samples taken near Norlite were compared to previous testing done at AFFF contaminated sites. The Norlite samples were a mirror image of previous AFFF testing results, suggesting the incinerator of firefighting foam at Norlite released toxic PFAS into the environment.

Major findings in the Norlite water/soil samples

• Elevated levels of PFAS compounds were detected in the soil and water near the Norlite facility. These levels decline with distance from the incinerator.
• The PFAS compounds that make-up of AFFF, including PFOS, are higher around the plant then what is considered a background level in our region.
• The pattern of PFAS contamination in the soil and water around Norlite bears strong resemblance to sites of known AFFF contamination, such as air force bases and
firefighting training centers. Contamination at both Norlite and these legacy AFFF sites is marked by the prevalence of sulfonic and butanoic varieties of PFAS. This pattern differs from composition of PFAS contamination elsewhere in the region.
• AFFF contains approximately 250 different perflourinated compounds. There are only laboratory standards available for 50 of those compounds. Results from the TOP Assay analysis of soil and water near Norlite found evidence of significantly more PFAS compounds then we know how to detect. This finding is typical of sites with AFFF
contamination.

“Residents in the Capital District are concerned that attempts to burn AFFF might contaminate their neighborhoods with highly toxic PFAS compounds. These testing results at Norlite indicate that those fears are justified. Burning PFAS chemicals is inherently risky because these firefighting compounds, by design, resist thermal destruction,” said Jane Williams, a national expert on PFAS chemicals and executive director of California Communities Against Toxics.

Norlite is currently upgrading its facilities to prevent harmful chemicals from being released during incineration. Monday night the City of Cohoes is voting whether or not to institute a one-year moratorium that would prevent Norlite from burning PFA.

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