GHENT–Nearly two years after the massive fire and explosions on Falls Industrial Road in West Ghent released plumes of smoke that triggered air quality alerts around Columbia County and beyond, the Town of Ghent and TCI of NY appear to have made their separation official.
Ghent Town Attorney Ted Guterman announced Thursday evening, July 17 that the town and TCI, a company that prepares old electrical transformers for recycling, have come to terms on a settlement in the lawsuit initially brought against the town by TCI last year.
“The town of Ghent is pleased to announce that all litigation matters between the Town of Ghent and TCI of NY, LLC have been resolved and the lawsuits discontinued,” said Mr. Guterman, reading from a prepared statement at the July 17 Town Board meeting.
Stipulations provided by the settlement require TCI to withdraw its application to rebuild at the West Ghent site, and to have all transformers currently stored there removed by December 31 of this year. Mr. Guterman said that the state Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed that the transformers currently at the site were constructed after 1990, which means they do not contain PCB oil.
It was PCB oil being processed by a contractor at the West Ghent facility that fire officials say caused the huge accidental blaze. One of the ways TCI prepares older transformers for recycling is to remove the oil in them, some of which contains PCBs.
The use of PCBs, a family of manmade compounds called polychlorinated biphenyls, is no longer legal in new products, and handling and processing the materials in transformers is governed by environmental regulations. Exposure to PCBs can cause serious threats to human health and the environment. The chemicals are a suspected carcinogen.
TCI currently operates at a leased site across the Hudson River in the Albany County community of Coeymans and is building a new facility there.
After the fire destroyed the West Ghent facility in August 2012, community members raised concerns about the possible release of a PCBs and toxic materials created when PCBs are burned. But tests conducted after the fire did not detect elevated levels of PCBs at the site or at other locations in the vicinity.
When TCI submitted an application for permission to rebuild to the Ghent Planning Board, the company was met with opposition by town residents, who questioned the company’s credibility, and the application was closely scrutinized by town officials during the review process.
Last July, TCI filed a legal action against the town, claiming local officials were exceeding their authority and blocking the company from rebuilding. But before the case was heard, both sides agreed to suspend activity in the case while TCI pursued a new site outside of Columbia County.
Though TCI still lists its official address as Falls Industrial Park Road, the company website says that its transformer recycling preparation operations are currently in Coeymans, where it has been since May 2013. This spring it began construction on a new, $7-million headquarters building, according to the website,tci-ny.com. The new building will reportedly be ready this September.
Mr. Guterman said at this week’s meeting that stipulations in the settlement require TCI to drop all claims made against the town.
“The Town Board is pleased that the issues between TCI and the town have been resolved in this manner and believes that the settlement is in the best interest of both the town and TCI,” Mr. Guterman said in his statement.
A call to TCI requesting comment on the settlement was not returned before press deadline.