Ghent mulls whether to set higher bar for TCI

GHENT–TCI has applied to rebuild the company’s recycling facility, according to town Supervisor Larry Andrews. But the application to obtain a building permit was deemed incomplete because TCI, which lost its buildings and storage tanks in a huge, accidental industrial fire August 1 and 2, needs to come before the town Planning Board for a full site plan review prior to approval.

Mr. Andrews announced the status of the application during the October 18 Town Board meeting.

“There’s no building permit that has been issued,” Mr. Andrews said. “That’s where that stands at this point.”

Several residents showed up to the meeting wanting to know whether the town would follow through with their request at last month’s board meeting, where many people called on the town to cite TCI for alleged violations. One of the concerned citizens was Patti Matheney, a Ghent resident who has been involved since the August fire in efforts to make TCI more accountable.

“The thing that bothers me the most is this is now the second time that I’ve come before this board and asked that the town laws be enforced,” said Ms. Matheney at last Thursday’s meeting. “I think it’s not fair they aren’t being cited for something.”

The alleged violations Ms. Matheney and others refer to involve matters such as storage at the building of PCBs in higher than permitted concentrations by TCI and its partner company, Power Substations. PCBs, the abbreviation for polychlorinated biphenyls, are manmade industrial chemicals harmful to human health and the environment. TCI’s operation in West Ghent removed liquids containing PCBs from old electrical transformers.

An inventory report submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency by TCI on August 2 as the fire still smoldered showed what may have been in at the site when the fire started, including three transformers containing PCB concentrations of 930 parts per million (ppm), 1,300 ppm and 1,600 ppm, respectively. The inventory also listed six bushings, each with 15 gallons of oil contaminated with PCBs at concentrations of 50 to 499 ppm. Ms. Matheney said during the September board meeting that she had obtained paperwork from the town showing TCI had agreed in the late 1980s to handle only material containing PCBs at concentrations lower than 50 ppm.

The August 2 inventory report to the EPA also showed sodium was stored at the site by Power Substations.

“Is it against the town code to have a business operating out of another business?” asked resident Kara Switzer. “Is it legal for that company to have had the sodium onsite?”

Town attorney Ted Guterman said that there was not enough information to say whether any codes were violated, because it is unclear what the original permit allowed TCI to do. He recommended that the board not cite the company.

“It is my opinion that the better way to proceed is to have them come in for their site plan and basically get to the bottom of this,” said Mr. Guterman. “One of the tasks for our Planning Board is basically finding out what they were permitted to do in the first instance.”

According to Mr. Guterman, the maximum fine would only be $350. He said it would not be worthwhile to spend time and attorney fees for something he says would be difficult to prove anyway.

“Those are questions that are all going to be answered,” said Mr. Guterman regarding the public’s concerns. “They’ll have to be answered by TCI before this company is permitted to do anything.”

Mr. Guterman also relayed a report he received from the state Department of Health stating that the department “is of the opinion that there is no need to do any additional testing” based on the testing done by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the EPA during the cleanup.

PCB expert David Carpenter, MD, of the University at Albany said at a public forum earlier in the month that the analysis from the state’s tests may be inaccurate because the state agency used inexpensive tests that may have been inadequate to detect PCBs.

Board member Richard Sardo said he was able to find a situation online similar to the TCI fire, and he encouraged others to do research and compare. Mr. Sardo said he found information about a fire that burned a facility holding oil containing PCBs Canberra, Australia. The fire occurred over a year ago. While it is not clear what kind of testing was conducted in the area following the fire, the results did not show dangerous levels of contamination.

Also at the meeting the board:

*Set a date for a public hearing regarding the town’s 2013 budget. The board accepted the tentative budget as preliminary. According to Mr. Andrews, the total amount to be raised by taxes will be $11,340 less than last year. The public hearing will be November 15 at 7:15 p.m.

*Heard Peter Lynch, an attorney representing Price Chopper, say that the supermarket developer is currently in the process of seeking approval for the project from the Village of Chatham Planning Board but has come up against issues regarding water and sewer service. Price Chopper would like to connect to Chatham’s water and sewer systems, since a small part of the proposed new supermarket building will be in the village, with the rest in the town of Ghent. Mr. Lynch said that counsel to the village had “proposed that we reach out to the town to determine whether or not the town would be willing to create a water district and a sewer district” for the site, and “then enter into an agreement with the Village of Chatham essentially for the village to service that district with water and sewer with the administration and the cost.”

Mr. Guterman said he will look over the points and get back to the board with the presentation for further discussion.

*Mr. Andrews said there will be a Halloween parade in Ghent on October 31 beginning at the town hall at 5:30 p.m. and proceeding to the fire company.

 

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