Endicott Residents to DEC: “Why Weren’t We Asked?”

By: Joan McKiernan

Endicott residents, former residents and supporters turned out last month in Endicott High School to let the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) know how they felt about the waste processing plant in Endicott.  The DEC was forced to hold a public meeting because they got so many complaints protesting against their secretive methods in dealing with the extension of the permit for I3 Electronics plant. This is a commercial industrial wastewater treatment plant, which in order to make its profits, imports waste, mainly leachate from Seneca Meadows, which is trucked into the village every day. However, activists have also learned that additional pharmaceutical wastes are also being brought in for processing. There is limited information available on the nature of chemicals and toxins that are imported.

It was a serious and exciting evening as one after the other, over twenty people voiced their concerns and suggestions. Among the issues raised were concerns about air pollution, drinking water which could only be used after boiling it, odors emanating from the plant, dangers to people who eat fish from the Susquehanna, the discharge of mercury into the river in amounts higher than state limits, the amount of truck traffic, the danger of spills. The first speaker asked, “Why weren’t we asked to vote on this at the start?” Gerri Wiley, a public health nurse and environmental activist, argued that there has been a loss of public confidence because of I3’s discharge into the river and the DEC saying there had been no impact. She and many others called for a full environmental impact assessment. Wiley also argued that manufacturers need to move to produce less harmful products, which produce dangerous waste. There were many challenges to importing the waste into Endicott, asking why transport it here? Several suggested rejecting waste from outside the area, arguing that leachate should be treated at the site of origin. Many people rejected the idea of self-reporting which the DEC currently accepts. They argued for unannounced inspections and yearly monitoring by the DEC.

There were also speakers from the DEC and Huron Electronics who sought to assure the citizenry that all was safe and well. The DEC rep stated that the imported waste had been tested for radiation. He also gave assurances that the village drinking water came from 100 feet below the river and had no connection to the river. The Huron rep.    argued that the waste treatment plant was part of an economic development strategy, stating that we are trying to bring jobs to the area. Amazingly, he argued that we first need a world class waste treatment plant before companies will set up here. As a speaker later answered, “Will Apple move here because we have a place to put our shit?” The politicians were notable by their absence and silence on the issue. As local resident, Jonathon Strong asked, “Where are the legislators? Where are the Endicott officials?” Broome County Executive Debbie Preston did not turn up. Neither did her Democratic Party challenger, Jason Garner. They are competing for public office, but neither apparently feels this issue warrants any comment. State assembly member, Donna Lupardo, was there. As was Eileen Konecny, one of four     Endicott Village Trustees. However, neither of these elected officials made any public remarks during the meeting.

The most moving testimony came from those whose health has been affected. One man explained that his son breaks out in a rash every time he takes a shower. Betsy, a waitress who lives near Price Cutter, lifted her trouser leg to show us the rash on her leg that appeared after she moved here six years ago.

You can watch the whole meeting here on Vera Scroggins’ site:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3IgwDCzHIU&index=5&list=UUfbfGPFJn5t3HvJcRNTvJxQ

In addition to the oral testimony, many individuals and groups sent in written comments to the DEC. The Broome Tioga Green Party recommended that leachate waste should be processed on site in Seneca Meadows. They also asked for a referendum for residents to decide whether waste should be processed in their town. The Sierra Club marshaled legal and scientific arguments, arguing that the permit fails to address environment and health concerns for the community and for those who rely on the Susquehanna.

 So now we wait to see the DEC response: will they support the company or the                                       people and the environment?

 

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