DEC rebuts concerns by battery recycling opponents

Local News

TOWN OF UNION – A group opposed to a lithium ion battery recycling facility in Endicott are outraged over the responses to their concerns from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC worte a letter to members of Don’t Burn Broome, addressing and rebutting many of the questions and assertions made by the grassroots environmental group.

In responding to 17 different points, the Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer corrected the environmental activists on what sort of permits the recycling facility requires and whether the agency has any say over where the plant is located.

The DEC engineer contends that while the chemistry is not well understood, there has been no documentation that suggests emissions from the facility would pose a serious health risk to the community.

Members of No Burn Broome countered that the DEC lacks a basic knowledge of chemistry and toxicology and that the engineer’s attitude is both nonchalant and cavalier.

They also say it is unacceptable for the DEC to not consider nanoparticles a regulated pollutant.

The developer of the recycling facility, SungEel MCC Americas released the letter to the media in the hopes that it would quote “clear up any misinformation or misconceptions shaped by the increasingly confusing public narrative and political environment surrounding the project.” unquote.

See SungEel’s remarks below:

DEC Responds to Lithium-Ion Facility Concerns

In a letter dated August 1, 2020, Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer Tom Elter, of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), responded to a letter sent by Endicott citizens asking for clarification on questions and concerns related to the SungEel MCC Americas (SMCC) lithium-ion battery recycling facility proposed for the Huron Campus in the Village of Endicott.

In the attached document, Elter responds point-by-point to these concerns, and offers extensive information and data based on the lengthy and involved research, review and permitting process conducted by the DEC on the matter of SMCC’s proposed facility. The letter provides a comprehensive overview of the facts related to the facility’s operations and explains the metrics by which SMCC’s plans were evaluated.

SungEel MCC Americas leadership hopes this letter will clear up any misinformation or misconceptions shaped by the increasingly confusing public narrative and political environment surrounding the project. Science, data and facts should be the only metrics by which the proposed project is evaluated, and we expect these details to lead to a more constructive dialogue going forward between both leadership at SMCC, and Endicott’s local leaders in the public and private sectors.

DEC letter response:

No Burn Broome Response:

This August 1, 2020. Letter from NYDEC Thomas A. Elter, PE, was to John Ruspantini of

 NoBurnBroomewas in response to a July 19, 2020, Letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, from Paul Connett PhD and John J. Ruspantini CHMM, PMP, NoBurnBroome Science Committee, Endicott NY.

The August 1, 2020, letter from Thomas Elter, PE, Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), raises more questions than it answers.  In this letter, Elter states,

“We agree that the chemistry is not well understood.”

Accordingly, the NYS DEC cannot “protect human health and the environment” from hazards that it does not understand or is aware of.  

Rather, the NYS DEC is relying only on existing air permit parameters to determine whether or not the plant will emit unacceptable hazardous air pollutants and is not taking into account a number of objections that NoBurnBroome has raised based on our review of the scientific literature.  

The NYS DEC appears to have more professional knowledge on engineering than basic chemistry or toxicology. A glaring example of this is their nonchalant attitude about the nanoparticles that will be produced in the SungEel process. The fact that the NYS DEC neither monitors nor regulates nanoparticles from incineration does not mean that they do not pose a health threat. We have pointed out several times to NYS DEC personnel that these threats are real and severe. For example, last year a study was published that showed a relationship between the number of nanoparticles in the urban air of Montreal and an increase in the prevalence of brain cancer (see reference 1 below). Considering that the residents living near the proposed site of this project already have high cancer rates, it’s unacceptable that the state’s attitude has been so cavalier on this matter.

It is insulting when Elter claims that we have “learned to live with nanopartlcles,” as if we were talking about emissions from a barbecue. The particles we are concerned about will capture a large fraction of the toxic metals, dioxins and other toxics generated in the SungEel high temperature process. These particles will evade the SungEel’s baghouse and penetrate the lung membranes of local residents.

This ignorance or nonchalance reflects the same poor judgment as when the NYS DEC issued a “negative declaration” in its SEQR review for this facility back in October 2019. By so doing they ruled out the need for a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Such an EIS would have quickly found that Endicott is not zoned for this facility and the Town of Union’s Comprehensive plan, 1) favors light (over heavy) industrial use and 2) requires a buffer area between any industrial activity and residential areas. This site has people living 100 feet from the plan with no buffer zone.

Both then and now the NYS DEC has shown a total lack of sensitivity for a community whose health has been so badly compromised by past industrial pollution (presumably from facilities that the state approved). Does the NYS DEC not realize that Local residents have experienced statistically significant elevations of health outcomes, including leukemia, kidney and testicular cancer, measures of low birth weight, and congenital heart defects – see references 2-6 below.

This lack of sensitivity is compounded by the DEC’s lack of interest in fully understanding the nature of the pollutants this facility – the first of its kind in the U.S. — will emit into the local environment even while they assure the public there will be health problems. Why are taxpayers wasting their money on an agency that only serves to rubber stamp economic ventures.

For example, the DEC says it did not know that PFAS are present in some lithium-ion batteries as SungEel never mentioned it. Once PFAS are broken down in high temperature processes it forms fluorinated radicals which can reform into both larger and smaller PFAS (Phelps, 20207).  We also found scientific literature that identifies fluorinated benzenes that can form from heating PVDF which is a binder used in nearly every lithium ion battery.  These are called products of incomplete combustion or PICs, and DEC has completely ignored the significance or our findings in this regard.  We have literature from the EPA stating their concern regarding these issues but do not understand why DEC would dismiss such issues out of hand.

For SungEel or their PR firm to suggest that the NY DEC and SungEel are relying on facts and science on the basis of the letter from NY DEC is nothing short of bogus PR spin attempting to gloss over a dangerous and under-studied process. The NYS DEC is only concerned in issuing a permit from a legal perspective; that is, only what is enforceable by current state environmental law and regulation and is disinterested in trying to fully understand the nature of what it is they are permitting with regard to hazardous air pollutants.

  1. Weichenthal S, Olaniyan T, Christidis T, et al. 2020. Within-city Spatial Variations in Ambient Ultrafine Particle Concentrations and Incident Brain Tumors in Adults. Epidemiology 31 (2):177-181.
  2. 2012. Forand SP, Lewis-Michl EL, Gomez MI. Adverse Birth Outcomes and Maternal Exposure to Trichloroethylene and Tetrachloroethylene through Soil Vapor Intrusion in New York. Environmental Health Perspectives 120(4):616-621.
  3. 2011. IBM Endicott Site, Health Statistics Review. NY Department of Health. Documents relating to the on-going projects in Endicott may be reviewed, as they become available, at the George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Village of Endicott, 1001 Park Street, Endicott, NY 13760.
  4. 2008. Clapp RW and Hoffman K. Cancer mortality in IBM Endicott plant workers, 1969–2001: an update on a NY production plantEnvironmental Health 7:13.
  5. 2006. Health consultation: Endicott area investigation: Health statistics review: Cancer and birth outcome analysis, Endicott area, town of Union, Broome County, New York. By the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. HERO ID 730426. Technical Report.
  6. 2004. IBM Endicott Site, Health Statistics Review: Cancer and Birth Outcome Analysis, Village of Endicott and Endwell, Town of Union, Broome County, NY. A Study Protocol. By the New York State Department of Health, Center for Environmental Health.
  7. Phelps L. 2020. USEPA PFAS Thermal Treatment & Methods Research – Opportunities for Collaborative Incineration Field Testing. April 27, 2020.

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