Bill Memo: Clean Air for Cohoes
This bill prohibits the incineration of PFAS foam in certain cities with an environmental justice area designated by DEC and a certain population of not less than 16,000 and not more than 17,000 based on the 2010 federal census.
This legislation bans the incineration of PFAS firefighting foam in certain cities with an environmental justice area designated by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and a certain population size. Specifically, this bill targets the burning of firefighting foam containing PFAS at the Norlite facility located in the City of Cohoes, which has burned this foam since at least 2018 without notifying the public.
PFAS are a large class of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as ‘forever chemicals’ because of specific properties such as not breaking down easily and persisting in the human body and the environment for long periods of time. Incineration of PFAS does not destroy these chemicals, but instead leads to these toxic chemicals being emitted into the air and deposited in the surrounding soil and water.
Recent sampling conducted by Bennington College indicates that PFAS is now present in soil and surface water samples in the neighborhoods surrounding Norlite, threatening the health of city residents, and in particular, a vulnerable nearby public housing community.
This bill is critical to further environmental justice in the City of Cohoes and protect the public health of residents throughout the Capital Region from continued exposure to toxic PFAS in their air, soil, and water. This bill could be strengthened to ensure PFAS foam is disposed of safely statewide through the following actions:
- The ban on PFAS foam incineration should apply statewide since there are other hazardous waste incinerators and municipal waste incinerators in New York State that could potentially burn PFAS foam in the future.
- PFAS foam should be classified as a hazardous waste. The New York State Legislature passed legislation to phase out the use of PFAS in firefighting foam in 2019. This toxic substance should be subject to storage, reporting, and tracking requirements to ensure the safe disposal of the foam and prevent spills and further contamination.
Environmental Advocates NY Bill Rating: Beneficial
Memo #: 38