After a whirlwind week of advocacy, we here at HOTH feel nothing but gratitude and a sense of awe as our community ignited and made their concerns and questions about Saratoga Biochar known to the DEC. Each community member stated their concerns with confidence, knowing that #1 were not alone and that #2 their concerns and questions are valid. People from across the region brought their unique perspectives and expertises to the table, demanding answers to unanswered questions. Whether or not Hand off the Hudson had a role in what we witnessed this week, it was clear each person that spoke, had a point of view and expertise to be shared and validated.
We have all watched as Saratoga Biochar bends the truth and paints a picture of the inevitable. What better way to deflate a movement than to claim their victory half way through the race? The massive platform being provided to SBS as they spread misinformation is unfortunate but not uncommon for their strategy. It is our shared hope that the public listens to their rhetoric through a lens of skepticism and demand the research and information to support their claims.
When SBS says their process is safe, we ask how do you know if you have never done this before? When they say that they won't impact the air we breathe, we ask for the data to support their claims. When they provide us with models and guarantees from third parties, we ask who will be responsible if their mission fails. When they tell us the DEC will be monitoring them constantly for emissions, we ask how often, only to find out that a yearly reading will be our only saving grace.
It is NOW or NEVER for us to write our emails to the DEC and tell them our concerns. Remember, your lack of action is a YES vote for SBS. If you don't write a short statement of concern the DEC counts your complacency as a approval of their facility. You are ok with 15% of the states sewage sludge being shipped to an industrial park sitting only a few hundred yards from the magestic Hudson River. You are ok with emissions drifting to residents of Hudson Falls and settling into their community. You are fine with 1000's of trucks driving by the residents of South Glens Falls filled with raw sewage. If you don't have concern then the DEC views you as being ok with their issuance of the permits needed to move forward with their facility.
We are now the judges and jury that filters SBS's carefully constructed statements through a lens suspicion. We are the ones that need to be convinced and in all honesty, we are not. This is HOTHs mission, to empower our community to use research based data to support their claims of concern. We look to bring justice to the disadvantaged and defeated communities that surround this over polluted region by mobilizing the residents themselves.
You are the ones that are going to make a difference. You now have the information and can move forward with confidence to make your voices heard to question any industry that has the potential to pollute the environment or negatively impact our health.
Please write your concerns and questions by March 4th to:
or by mail to:
Regional Permit Administrator, DEC Region 5,
1115 State Route 86,
Ray Brook, NY 12977
I left the Saratoga Biochar Public Meeting with more questions than answers...
How many attendees of the Hudson Falls public meetings share this sentiment. After climbing to the 5th floor of the Sandy Hill Arts Center and listening to the same presentation for the 3rd time, how many residents walked away with more questions than when they came in. The emergency Hands off the Hudson meeting on Friday confirmed that we all witnessed the same circus and shared many of the same questions that emerged from the answers SBS provided to our questions. We were able to solidify them into 10 different categories.
1. No Trials, just Models
The glaring take away from the meetings this week is that there is a lack of data from experimental trials or tests. What little research and development that was conducted produced data that, as to date, we have not been able to access. SBS does have data on the 31 chemicals that will be in the plume refuse to share it with members of the public. SBS claims this is proprietary information and if they were to share it, then it would give their competitors a look into their process. Meeker's also defends his decision to keep the chemicals a secret because even if he did share it, “these people don’t understand this stuff”.
2. SBS Fertilizer is illegal to use in NYS
SBS’s claims about the fertilizer it is producing are speculation as well. The facts are that the fertilizer will be illegal to sell for private lawn use, as the phosphorus levels are much higher than the legal limit.
Meeker theorizes that the extra phosphorus is not going to Leech into our waterways, like the Hudson River, causing nutrient blooms and eutrophication. There is no data to confirm his theory that organic carbon in the fertilizer will "soak up" the extra ions and prevent them from leaching into the waterways.
SBS has not conducted any of the experiments necessary to support its claims. It is still working in the theoretical field and also lack an understanding of chemistry to boot. On the contrary, the research conducted by Marie Sophn, demonstrates that Biochar (produced by wastewater sludge) is the least efficient method to bind organic phosphorus. Read the paper here.
3. Periodic, not continuous monitoring
The biggest question that resulted from the meetings is how SBS has stated on numerous occasions that it will have continuous testing, but now seems to only be periodic testing. This was stressed even more when Casella confirmed that it would not be testing every truck coming in but would be performing tests occasionally. The rational is that the sewage coming in is uniform.
Is SBS not importing sludge from a number of sewer districts across the northeast? Wouldn’t it be more likely that sewage from one district would vary greatly from another. Paint, pharmaceuticals, cleaning products, motor vehicle fluids, and grease/fats/oils enter the sewer system and will be a component of the biosolid entering the facility .
Even more concerning is that stack emissions are not able to test for PFAS continuously at this time. And although the technology may become available in the future, SBS stated that they would only be testing emissions periodically, as it needs to be sent to a lab.
4. Truck Route
I don’t think there was a single person that felt the 1200 trucks per hour was a number that made sense. Also, though a new study was requested multiple times by residents of Moreau, it was never approved. I didn’t ever sit down and do the math, but not to worry, someone else did. The largest shipping yard in the nation, after an impressive build up, was revealed to have a max capacity of 1000 trucks per hour. Are we to believe a multi billion dollar operation with its own highway system was still less efficient than the Moreau industrial park. Watch the meeting here.
Perhaps now we can stop listening to Ray Apy boast about the minor impact 50 trucks per day would have on the community. We were also provided with the information that 50 trucks a day actually calculates to 3 trucks per hour, 24 hours per day, 6 days per week, 52 weeks per year. Thats 1.5 olympic pools of sewage sludge per day. Enough to fill the entire Empire State building every year, for 50 years.
5. Environmental Review
One requirement of the Negative Declaration issued by the Moreau Planning Boards is that the surrounding area will not be impacting an environment that supports endangered or at-risk species of plants and animals. Referenced in the Negative Declaration is the environmental study conducted more than 20 years ago. Outdated and, if similar to the traffic study, potentially flawed, this environmental study should not fulfill the DEC’s requirement for limiting industries impact on the plants and animals that live here.
Currently in the middle of a multimillion dollar restoration of the Hudson River, Hudson Falls and Fort Edward have worked tirelessly to restore the health of the river and its surrounding ecosystems after they were decimated by GE and other polluting industries. Why would communities use a different, unproved industry that will process 15% of New York State's sewage sludge in addition to Connecticut and Massachusetts that has never been tested or produced reviewable data for analysis. Communities like this need a break. They need to be able to live without the constant threat of industrialization by companies whose only motive is to make money for their investors in the shortest amount of time.
Ray Apy has given his word that there will be zero odor escaping this state of the art facility. Negative pressure and unloading in doors will be the magic cure for the smells that are so commonly associated with sewage sludge. Unfortunately, even its own board member describes his relief when leaving the facility he works in. Again, we are relying on a model, not experimental data.
7. Derogatory Tone
When speaking of their carbon fertilizer process, Ray Apy and Bryce Meeker chose tones that suggested care and inspiration, telling long stories about how they are working to save the world. Their demeanor quickly changed, however, when attempting to clarify information in the news or shared by nonprofit organizations, or when answering the public's questions. The Saratoga Biochar President and the CEO quickly dissolved into a belittling, snarky tone, at one point laughing that our resistance to the SBS project was beneficial to exposing their product to the market and consumers. Not only do they disregard our concerns, but also they actually believe they are educating us, like small children attending a lesson in school.
SBS clearly did not appreciate Hayleigh Colombo’s reports regarding Bryce Meeker’s and Lee Wulfekuhle’s involvement in previous lawsuits. SBS even went so low as to suggest that Ms. Colombo and the firm she works for, Lee Enterprises, have ulterior motives. Why would someone from Ohio care about what is happening in upstate NY? This theory, however, was quickly dispelled as one area resident began questioning where Bryce and Lee were from. Why were these two midwestern residents here, in our neighborhood? Why weren’t they building their plant in Nebraska or Ohio? Read the article here!
8. Pollution inundation and remediation
Hudson Falls and until recently Fort Edward have been designated a Potential Environmental Justice Zone (dark purple) and a Disadvantage Community. SBS’s project is less than a ½ a mile from Hudson falls. SBS’s facility would be sitting on the Hudson River, a PCB Sediment State Superfund Site (54603) and across the river from the GE superfund site where there is an effort being made to excavate all buildings and sediments contaminated with PCBs. SBS is down wind from a biosolids incinerator and has 18 other air polluting factories as neighbors, including Title V permitted Wheelabrator. Read the article here!
9. A NO SHOW is a YES VOTE
Although these meetings were exhausting, so many new discoveries were made. We finally got answers to our questions, allowing us to move forward with requesting data from the DEC, conduct wildlife studies, investigate Casella's involvement, and a plethora of other tidbits to follow up on. One last comment we feel is necessary to share, and brings attention to the mindset of not only SBS but also Moreau Town Planning Board is this; a no show, is a yes vote. This skewed sense of reality assumes that community members that are unable to come to meetings, didn’t get informed of the meetings, didn’t understand what the meetings were about, didn’t understand that they can be involved in the process, feel powerless to the industrialization of our communities due to decades of abuse, are all in favor of this project. Ray Apy made this message clear during conversations after the public meetings. A no show, is a yes vote. If you aren’t going into meetings, calling in virtually, signing petitions, or actively involved, SBS will assume you are on board. What better way for us to join together and collectively let our voices be heard. Not here, not now. Not after what we all deal with on a daily basis. We have had enough.
10. Diversity is strength
The most inspiring thing I learned from the Saratoga Biochar Meetings is that we live in a truly remarkable community. Diversity is strength. Like the squares of a quilt, diverse and beautiful in their own ways, members of our community are turning out in droves to lend their expertise to the cause and in doing so, creating an environment of love and inclusivity that will not only work to keep our region safe Saratoga Biochar, but also address any other threat to our health or the health of our environment.
In partnership with Clean Air Action Network, HOTH continues to investigate and report news about Moreau Town Planning Board plans to approve the Saratoga Biochar Solutions Facility, without conducting a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA). HOTH will be on hand to support the community at the meeting on Monday at 7pm, in the Moreau Office Complex, 351 Reynolds Road, Moreau, NY 12828.
If an agency makes an improper decision or allows a project that is subject to SEQR to start, and fails to undertake a proper review, citizens or groups who can demonstrate that they may be harmed by this failure may take legal action against the agency under Article 78 of the New York State Civil Practice Law and Rules. Project approvals may be rescinded by a court and a new review required under SEQR. New York State's court system has consistently ruled in favor of strong compliance with the provisions of SEQR (see also case law to be posted later). https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/357.html
For more information regarding the potential impacts of the Saratoga Biochar Solutions on your quality of life the the Hudson River CLICK HERE or navigate in the menu.
On Thursday, June 23rd HOTH had its first official interactions with the community at the Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace. We successfully distributed over 50 brochures to community members and were able to have some great conversations about what HOTH is and how it works to maintain the health of the river and our quality of life. We receive a lot of positive feedback and words of gratitude for our efforts thus far in addition to some really great questions. Kids stopped by too, gathering coloring sheets, connect the dots, and seek and find activities about animals that live in and around the Hudson River. All in all it was a great success and we look forward to our next event in the near future. Thank you to everyone who participated in making this day happen.
Community members and Hoth have recognized the importance in maintaining the footpath along the Champlain Canal, from Rte. 197 to East Road. Doing so would designate the zone as non-commercial or industrial and limit the IDA’s scope for running a new sewer line from Canalside Energy to the Washington County Water Treatment facility.
Village community members and HOTH is moving forward with a plan to limit the WWIDA's proposed sewer line along the Champlain Canal between East Road and Rte. 197. The construction of this sewer line would impact the freshwater ecosystem that has withstood the shipping of PCB contaminated sediment past its shores from the Hudson River to the Dewatering facility a few hundred miles north. To lose this piece of land to the WWIDA would limit the ability of Promote Fort Edward to use the Champlain Canal HIstoric Site designation to its advantage.
Read more from the June Board Meeting HERE.
Thursday, June 16th a letter was sent to Jacky Schillinger, the manager of government and public relations (email@example.com or calling 518-449-6049) with a copy of the signed petition, requesting designation of Sally's Trail. Read the letter below...
As the first post, I think it is most important to start with the most current events and work backwards. Please explore the HOTH website to gather all the information and activities that have been uncovered from the past year of extensive investigation and research.
Recent calls to members of the WWIDA have been met with confusion as questions regarding Hughes Energy's Plans to purchase the Canalside Energy Park and set up their operation. The members stated that they have not had any communication with Hughes Energy since January and they are unaware of their intentions at this time. HOWEVER...
HOTH received FOIL (freedom of information law) documents from our sister group "Don't Trash the Catskills" that indicate Hughes Energy Intentions to set up a PILOT program to test "Organic Waste on a small scale 2 Ton unit."
Joseph Betro (Hughes Energy Business Development) states in multiple emails to NYS DEC, Kate Kornak that
"(w)e would be looking to implement this and take inbound organic food waste and generate fibre for testing purposes, to be utilized in paper production." <-- Read the emails and summaries from the recent FOIL request HERE.
How would HUGHES ENERGY upscale such a production? WOULD they be processing organic food waste ONLY or would it be mixed municipal waste (i.e. household garbage).
Executive Director Report- Michael Ostrander (Executive Director):
Why don't we call members of the WWIDA and ask why they are planning roads and waste water management for a parcel of land that has no plans of being developed at this time? <-- Read more about the upgrades being funded by the WWIDA to upgrade the Washington County Sewer District to handle and increase in waste water expected from Hughes Energy.
If these activities concern you, please call Michael Ostrander and Dave O'Brien.
My name is Shannon Gillis, I am an educator and a concerned citizen driven to uncover and communicate actions of our representatives and planning boards that have the potential to affect our health and the health of the environment, especially the Hudson River Ecosystem.