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Airing their Views

Dec holds hearing on cement plant upgrade

by Laurie Lynn Fischer on January 26, 2011

The final public hearing on lafarge ravena’s cement plant modernization took place on jan. 20. All who spoke accepted that lafarge building materials, inc. Will get its permits. But like limestone dust, questions hung in the air about how strict and detailed the permits will be.
“it certainly looks like lafarge will be building a new plant,” said former state wildlife pathologist ward stone, who has found elevated heavy metal levels in wildlife and soil nearby. “tonight a lot of people here are interested in money and greed.”

Several people objected that the department of environmental conservation is only requiring one year of air monitoring after the new plant comes online. Emissions could change if the plant ages or starts burning tires, they said. Air monitoring should begin while construction workers are dismantling the old plant, they said.
“the plant is going to be operating for a lot longer than one year, so we think the air monitor should be operating for the life of the plant,” said elyse kunz, cofounder of community advocates for safe emissions. “it’s the only way to find out what’s really going on. It would provide peace of mind for those who are concerned.”

Several people raised the issue of fugitive dust that escapes from storage areas, trucks and the conveyor belt between the lafarge quarry and plant.

“they result in respiratory damage to people living around the plant and the people who go to this school,” said hayley mauskapf, representing the 47-year-old organization scenic hudson. “they need to be adequately addressed in the plans to modernize.”
Landscaping should also be required, she and others said.

“since we are in a scenic area, the visual impacts should be mitigated to the extent possible,” she said. “i know the stack is supposed to be somewhat taller than the current stack. Having some kind of green screen around it would help with the visual impact and noise.”
Friends of hudson director susan falzon called upon the dec to make lafarge’s permitted pollution limits independent of stringent federal limits, which face court and legislative challenges.

“people in the community exist in a cumulative toxic stew,” she said. “we want to make sure lafarge plant, when modernized, does as little to add to it as possible.”

Mary driscoll, who has lived in coeymans for more than 45 years, protested against the recent “assault” by researchers looking for heavy metal poisoning near the plant.

“our integrity has been questioned, our privacy invaded, and our reputation has been slandered all over the capital district,” she said. “do we have illnesses in our community? Of course we do. But i don’t believe there are more than in any other community.”

Modernization advocates included lafarge ravena’s environmental manager john reagan, cement plant workers dan baker and chris ricciardi and ravena resident jerry dunn. Also voicing support were diane ehrlich from the Albany chamber of commerce, ken pokalsky of the business council of new york state and local steelworker’s union president richard strattman.

Strattman read a letter from Albany county executive michael breslin that called lafarge ravena “an outstanding corporate neighbor.” Congressman paul tonko’s district director sean shortell read a statement from his boss applauding lafarge “for taking the steps necessary to modernize their plant in a fashion that will produce the cleanest, most energy-efficient plant in north america.”

Several other office holders commented favorably, including 108th district assemblyman steven mclaughlin, ravena mayor john bruno, ravena village board member bruce roberts and coeymans town councilman tom boehm.

Written comments on lafarge’s permits will be accepted through feb. 22 by sarah h. Evans, project manager/environmental analyst, nys dec, region 4 headquarters, 1130 north westcott road, schenectady, ny 12306. E-mail: r4dep@gw.dec.state.ny.us. Fax: (518) 357-2460.