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MOREAU — Fueled by fears of another environmental disaster along the upper Hudson River, residents are organizing to slow approvals for Saratoga Biochar Solutions’ proposed move to the city’s industrial park.
Not Moreau, a grassroots group that includes residents like former city council member Gina LeClaire, said there were too many questions about toxins, such as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and sulfuric acid, involved in the Biochar process that converts biosolid waste into carbon fertilizer. Residents question the company’s claims about the safety and efficiency of its processes.
Residents are also concerned about noise, odors and truck traffic around the facility, issues that LeClaire says could affect the neighborhood around the park and communities across the river in Fort. Edward and Hudson Falls.
“There are so many potential negative effects,” LeClaire said. “We must ask for the establishment of a moratorium for this industrial park in order to review the authorized uses. We are asking the city council to make a zoning change there because (Biochar) is not a good choice.
Another resident, Sandy Mahoney, agrees, saying, “We don’t want another GE,” referring to General Electric’s decades-long dump. Toxic PCBs in the Hudson from its two former factories in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls.
Saratoga Biochar CEO Raymond Apy, which is proposing a $29 million plant on 5.9 acres, did not respond to a Times Union request for comment. However, letters about the plant, posted on the city’s website, repeatedly noted that “biosolids are not hazardous.”
“Biosolids are not raw sewage – they are treated solids from public sewage treatment plants,” Apy wrote in a May 12 letter to the planning board. “Again, biosolids are not hazardous, but yes, biosolids contain trace amounts of unwanted contaminants such as PFAS and they do not smell good.”
He also wrote that the process is intended to destroy PFAS, volatile organic compounds, pathogens, microplastics and other contaminants, which he wrote “are thermally removed…and then thermally oxidized.”
Additionally, he wrote that PFAS can be destroyed at 1,600-1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, which he noted “is hot enough to break the bonds that hold these compounds together—even the carbon bonds— fluorine that make PFAS such a durable compound. (a “chemical forever” as it is often called). I’m here to tell you that if you get enough PFAS in its gaseous state, it’s no longer an eternal chemical. This has been proven, it is not theoretical.
However, LeClaire points to a technical brief from the US Environmental Protection Agency that notes that PFAS cannot be destroyed below temperatures of 1,400 degrees Celsius or 2,552 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Research shows that treatment plants are often ineffective at removing PFAS from wastewater and could therefore be introducing additional PFOA into our system.” LeClaire told the planning board.
She also cites a Science Direct article that claims that removing PFAS is “exceptionally difficult.”
“Three approaches are currently available for PFAS waste: landfill, sewage treatment, and incineration,” the article says. “Each disposal approach can return either the original PFAS or their breakdown products to the environment, showing that the PFAS problem is cyclical. Landfilling and wastewater treatment do not destroy PFAS and simply move PFAS loads between sites.