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Norlite, LLC.

City of Cohoes

The State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and its State and local partners are committed to protecting the public health and the environment of the City of Cohoes and surrounding area. This webpage provides an overview of DEC's recent actions and the steps we are taking to address public concerns arising from Norlite's operations.

What is Norlite?

Norlite, located in the City of Cohoes, is a DEC permitted manufacturer of lightweight aggregate materials produced from shale mined at the plant. After mining, the shale is first crushed in a series of crushers before being fed to one of the two rotary lightweight aggregate kilns. The high-temperature kilns are primarily fired with liquid hazardous waste from off-site sources. The material exiting the kilns is called clinker. The clinker is first cooled in one of the two clinker coolers before being crushed to the desired product size. The final product is called lightweight aggregate which is used in numerous construction projects.

What type of Waste does Norlite Burn?

Norlite is currently permitted to burn hazardous waste, different types of waste fuels, used oils, fuel oils (such as building heating oils #2, #4, and #6) and natural gas in the kilns. Under Norlite's authorization to burn hazardous and non-hazardous waste, they accepted, blended and burned as fuel, a type of firefighting foam called aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), which contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Norlite is no longer burning PFAS chemicals. PFAS chemicals do not naturally break down easily and persist for a long time in the environment, especially in water. High temperature incineration is one method being used and is now being extensively studied by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a disposal method for these substances.

Comprehensive Off-Site Dust Study

In Spring 2021, DEC initiated a comprehensive study of off-site dust following concerns expressed by residents of the Saratoga Sites apartment complex and other Norlite facility neighbors. The study was designed to characterize the larger particle sizes found in the Saratoga Sites community by sampling at two locations for particulate matter 10 microns or less in size (PM10) and PM10 crystalline silica, perform microscopic analysis of suspended particles, and conduct one-hour monitoring of particles 2.5 microns or less in size (PM2.5). To collect additional time-of-day information about dust events, a continuous PM10 analyzer was added in August 2021 to the south monitoring location at Saratoga Sites.

Results of the interim study show that dust particles larger than PM2.5 from the Norlite facility are migrating to the Saratoga Sites property. The data show that dust particle plume events usually occur in short, one- to four-hour intervals at levels higher than observed by DEC air monitors in downtown Albany during the same hours and demonstrate Norlite has been violating DEC's stringent air pollution control regulations and permit conditions.

DEC's comprehensive analysis shows positive matches to Norlite source material for every filter that underwent microscopic analysis to date. Twenty-four-hour PM10 data also shows that readings at the south part of Norlite's property, adjacent to Saratoga Sites and where shale processing and storage takes place, are significantly higher than on the north side of the property, further reinforcing DEC's determination that Norlite's aggregate processing is a source of the dust.

Soil and Surface Water Sampling Results

On March 9, 2021, DEC announced the findings of the agency's comprehensive soil and water sampling initiative of communities surrounding the Norlite facility. DEC conducted the science-driven sampling initiative to help determine if contaminants are present in communities surrounding the Norlite facility as a result of its past combustion of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) that contains Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) as well as sampling for 23 metals, including mercury, contained in other waste streams.

The study found no clearly discernible pattern of aerial deposition that could be traced to Norlite's operations. Sampling identified low-level detections of PFAS compounds in all soil samples collected, upwind, downwind, and at background locations, consistent with emerging research on the prevalence of these contaminants in urban, suburban, and rural environments. In addition, concentrations of PFAS found in soils were below guidance values developed by DEC and the Department of Health (DOH) and do not indicate a human health risk.

Enhanced Permit Review Process

DEC conducts a transparent and thorough review process on all applications for environmental permits to ensure the protection of public health and the environment. To receive a permit, a facility must demonstrate that it will be compliant with all applicable Federal and State statutes and regulations, and that the permit application is technically sound, administratively complete, and responsive to public comments received during the permitting process to the fullest extent permitted by law.

For these reasons, DEC encourages active public participation during the permitting process, especially when the proposed permits involve industrial facilities located in low-income or minority communities that have borne a disproportionate share of environmental pollution (Environmental Justice areas). DEC has designated the vicinity around the Norlite facility as an Environmental Justice area, requiring robust public outreach for Norlite's permits.

Among the DEC permits that Norlite currently holds, two of the permits that govern the facility's operations- an Air Title V permit required under the federal Clean Air Act and a Part 373 Hazardous Waste Management Facility permit required under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Both permits are currently extended under State law, specifically the State Administrative Procedure Act, because the renewals were submitted to DEC more than 180 days prior to their expiration and because the applications satisfied certain minimum regulatory requirements. However, DEC has advised this facility that its applications are not complete, for the purposes of the Uniform Procedures Act (Article 70 of the Environmental Conservation Law). New York State law provides that the existing permit remains in effect while DEC considers a renewal application.

On June 18, 2020, DEC notified Norlite that the renewal applications for the facility's Air Title V and Hazardous Waste Management Facility permits will be considered new applications requiring expanded Environmental Justice outreach to provide the community with the opportunity to comment on the overall operations - not just the renewal - and the facility's potential environmental impacts.

On July 1, 2020, Norlite submitted its applications to renew these permits. On August 28, 2020, and on February 26, 2021, DEC sent a Notice of Incomplete Application to the Norlite facility regarding their permit application submission. If DEC determines the applications to be complete, DEC will require opportunities for public notice and comment.

Increasing Public Participation

As part of the upcoming permit review process, community participation and engagement will be key, and community members can expect the following:

  1. DEC has notified Norlite that the applications are incomplete and that review of the applications will be suspended until the additional information that DEC has identified as necessary is provided. For example, since DEC will be applying Environmental Justice requirements to both permits, Norlite must develop and submit a public participation plan for review and approval. The Environmental Justice public participation plan will promote the fair involvement of the community in the permitting process, provide public access to all permit information, require public meetings, and incorporate public concerns into the review process to the fullest extent permitted by law.
  2. If and when DEC determines the applications are administratively complete, the public review process can formally begin. A Notice of Complete Application for the Air Title V permit and a Notice of Availability of Application for the Hazardous Waste Management permit will be published in DEC's Environmental Notice Bulletin and the local newspaper, and the Hazardous Waste Management Facility permit application will also be noticed as a radio announcement. Local governments, partner agencies, and other stakeholders will receive a copy of the notice.
  3. DEC will require Norlite to host at least two public meetings this fall as part of the expanded public participation plan, following all relevant COVID-19 guidance on gatherings and social distancing protocols. Neighbors and members of the public will have the opportunity to attend the public meetings and submit comments or questions to the facility about past and current operations and the permit applications. Norlite is required to publish notice of the meetings at least 30 days in advance in local newspapers, signage at the facility, broadcast media, and by written notice to DEC and local governments. At these meetings, Norlite will be required to answer public comments and questions and to maintain an information repository available to the public before DEC will approve the completion of the Environmental Justice process.
  4. DEC's technical review of the applications will run concurrently with the public comment and participation periods, which are critical to DEC's review. Feedback from the Environmental Justice process, public comment period, and reviews is used to require modifications or appropriate conditions in any final permits. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has 45 days to accept, reject, or provide recommended changes to the Air Title V permit application. Final permits must include operational, recordkeeping, personnel training, and other safety requirements before permits can be issued. Upon completion of administrative and technical reviews and all public comment and hearing processes, DEC will either approve or deny a permit application in accordance with applicable law. In addition, DEC has notified Norlite that a comprehensive human health and ecological risk assessment report must be prepared and submitted to DEC before any final determination on Norlite's hazardous waste management permit is made. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed protocol for the assessment during the public participation process. Stay tuned for DEC's next Community Newsletter for additional information on the assessment.
  5. DEC anticipates that the public notice and comment periods that will be required for the pending permit renewal applications will need to extend beyond 2020. The company is allowed to continue operating under DEC oversight while the permitting process continues. Final decisions will be responsive to public comments raised during the public participation process.

Document Availability

Norlite's Air Title V and Part 373 Hazardous Waste Management permit renewal applications can be viewed and downloaded at Norlite's website (leaves DEC website).

Digital files including Norlite's current and past permits (air, chemical bulk storage, resource conservation and recovery act, mined land reclamation, state pollutant discharge elimination system (SPDES), and water withdrawal), studies, and reports can be viewed and downloaded at DEC's FS site.

Community Updates, Presentations, and Announcements

Previous Community Updates and Presentations:

Past Announcements:


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