Coeymans port fire reignites debate over waste and other business there


COEYMANS – Wednesday’s fire at a scrapyard at Coeymans port comes as the facility seeks to expand its operations, including the storage of debris, a move that critics say raises questions about safety and the increased traffic.

Carver Companies, owner of the port, in January 2020 asked the State Department of Environmental Conservation to expand the facility along the Hudson River. And in June, they filed what DEC called a “pre-request” to move their construction and debris storage to another section of the port.

Additionally, another junkyard operator, CD Man, applied to DEC for a permit in August to build and operate a new construction and demolition debris transfer station on Highway 144 next to the port. Man currently runs a scrap metal factory at the Port of Albany.

The plans all come after city council amended its municipal laws in 2020 to allow for what critics say is a significant expansion of shipbreaking operations at or near the port.

This change and the weakening of a previous clean air law have become a political issue as outgoing supervisor George McHugh, who pushed through the changes, faces challenge to reelect current city clerk Cindy Rowzee.

“We had a strong law that said no trash could get in,” Rowzee said. “It changed last year.”

Prior to assuming the supervisory role, McHugh was general counsel for the Carver Companies, which own the port.

Last year’s zoning changes appear to have no impact on Wednesday’s blaze. Authorities believe a car battery in one of the scrap yards in the port, operated by Eastern Metal Recyclers, has shorted. This led to a fire that emitted a huge haze of smoke that was observed and inhaled from miles away in communities to the south, including the town of Hudson more than 20 miles away.

The fire was contained on Wednesday afternoon and no injuries were reported.

But the event has rekindled debate on how the town of Coeymans is dealing with environmental issues in and around the port, which is poised to become a hub for the construction of wind turbine components that will be shipped to the Long Island coast.

And it raises questions about whether McHugh and the city council have taken over too much of the port, which is one of the city’s largest employers.

“It’s a real weasel law,” Barbara Heinzen said of the change in 2020 that could facilitate more waste facilities near the port. A resident of New Baltimore, Heinzen is a member of the Clean Air Coalition of Greater Ravena-Coeymans, which has previously warned of earlier plans to burn tires at the LaFargeHolcim cement plant in Ravena, 5 miles away.

The 2020 zoning change essentially ended what had been a restriction on accepting waste from out of town by adding a clause that said items with the appropriate permit or authorization can be imported. from out of town.

“It’s now a recycling and transfer station, not just a recycling station,” Heinzen said of what the law allowed.

McHugh and a new city council elected in 2020 also overturned an earlier air quality law that would have made it difficult for Coeymans’ other major company, the LaFargeHolcim plant, to burn used tires in its kiln. Campaigners like Heinzen have long said this could add to concerns about smokestack pollution. However, the State Department for Environmental Conservation has since ruled that the company cannot burn tires with its current equipment.

McHugh did not respond to a call for comment Thursday.

Tuesday’s municipal elections and the fire come as the port of Coeymans is set to see a lot more activity, not only with transfer station plans, but with work at the port, which is turning into a hub for New York State’s ambitious push to erect wind turbines off Long Island.

In October, a consortium of Orsted Wind Energy, Eversource Energy and Riggs Distler Construction announced that they would assemble wind turbine platforms in the port.

While creating dozens of new jobs, hauling steel from western New York will increase truck traffic to the area, including through the village of Ravena, where there is already a lot of traffic to operations. of existing breakages there.

“There is an incredible amount of scrap trucks going through the village,” Ravena Mayor Bill Misuraca said.


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