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New Plan to Put Out Fires, End Odor at Attica Plant

4:24 PM, Sep 27, 2012   |    comments
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ATTICA, N.Y. -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will oversee efforts at Hillcrest Industries beginning Saturday morning to put out the fires and end the smell coming from a pile of burning recyclables.

Hillcrest's efforts Tuesday to inject a special foam down into the pile to put out hot spots failed, so the EPA stepped in.

After turning to experts in the field, the EPA said crews will now try and put it out by breaking up the 40-foot high, one-acre pile into smaller segments and then use water and, if necessary, foam to put out the fires inside the smaller piles.

WEB EXTRA: Read the EPA's release with specifics of its plan for Saturday

The EPA says that method is likely to cause some intermittent increases in smoke, steam and odors from the plant. While this work goes on, the agency will set up an air monitoring network both on and off site and will use water foggers to help control the temporary increase in smoke.

The work should last between 4 days and a week.

Preparations are already underway, and the heavy equipment will go to work to break up the large pile Saturday around 10 a.m.

"The number one priority for the EPA is to put this fire out," said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator, in a statement. "By breaking the piles apart, we can expose the fire and extinguish it in smaller, more manageable sections. While the work is going on, there may be an increase in the smoke and steam coming from the fires and also there may be visible steam or fog from the water misting system that will help us control this increased smoke. I want to assure the community near the site that we are doing everything possible to put this fire out quickly and elminate any smoke or pollution from being released into the air."

The EPA says residents in the area may want to keep their windows closed, and children-particularly those who have respiratory ailments-should not play outdoors if there is visible smoke in the area.

EPA spokesman Mike Basile told 2 On Your Side that he is confident the plan for Saturday will work. He said the costs will be minimal to the EPA, and therefore taxpayers, because the company hired contractors to do all the actual work. Basile said any costs incurred by the EPA will be recouped from Hillcrest.

2 On Your Side has learned about a third of the materials came from Canada, and there were perhaps warning signs that they could have been dangerous.

The City of Toronto previously sent its recycled glass to a processing facility in Quebec; however, following a fire, that plant declined to accept anymore of Toronto's recyclables, because the shipments usually contained more than 10 percent residue including decaying food waste.

According to documents from the Toronto City Council, "As there were no other viable mixed broken glass processing options in Ontario at the time... (the city) entered into emergency sole source agreements... for the haulage and processing of Toronto's mixed broken glass at a processing facility located in Attica, New York."

That facility is Hillcrest, which is responsible for an overwhelming odor that the DEC said started due to decaying residue inside the 50,000-ton pile.

Toronto paid another company, Recyclable Materials Marketing -- a middle man -- $681,577 to process more than 18,000 tons of recycled glass.

Residents were outraged to learn Toronto waste that was too potentially hazardous for a Canadian facility would end up in Attica.

"I don't know why trash from Toronto is here when no one else in Canada would take it," Yvette Howland, an Attica resident, said. "It's not just glass and plastic. It's a lot of garbage."

Assemblyman Daniel Burling, who represents Attica in Albany, sent a letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation asking for an investigation into how the Canadian waste was brought into the village.

Here is a portion of his letter, which was first posted online on the Facebook page of a group called "Something Stinks In Attica New York":

What stands out to me is that the difficulty the city was having in finding a facility to accept its broken glass and the admission that the glass refused contained in excess of 10% residue. The Canadian processors that were under contract made specific exceptions when the load exceeded the 10% residue, including outright contract termination by one processor due to insurance requirements.

Enter Recyclable Materials Marketing in Attica, which was paid $681,577 to accept Toronto's trash with no exceptions or penalties for residue exceeding 10% where other contracts specifically elected to prohibit it. The conclusion I draw is that the Attica facility knew full well of the excessive residue that the glass loads contained, but made a lucrative business decision that has negatively impacted the whole community by its actions.

Based on these findings, I am requesting immediate investigation and aggressive correction, and/or punitive actions to be taken against Recyclable Materials Marketing as an incentive to accelerate the clean-up of their thoughtless profiteering which has punished the entire community and severely diminished their quality of life.

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