A lawsuit filed Thursday seeks to stop the alleged incineration of fluorinated firefighting foam in eastern New York state under a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense.
Filed in California by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, the lawsuit charges that the owners of a construction materials company in Cohoes, New York, hold a regional contract with the DOD to incinerate firefighting foam containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFOA and PFOS.
The New York company, Norlite, operates a hazardous waste kiln that provides energy for its manufacturing operations.
State Assembly member John T. McDonald III, representing the region, said the absence of validation of the contract by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is troubling.
“There are many unknowns with this method of disposal and I fully understand the importance of disposing of these potentially toxic substances safely,” McDonald said. “It is critical that we have answers before activity is permitted.”
The suit charges that at least 40 shipments of foam from agency facilities has been accepted at Norlite since February 2019. It is unknown if that entire amount has been burned or is being held onsite pending maintenance to the kiln.
PFOS and PFAS belongs to a group of manufactured chemicals referred to as fluorinated chemicals that have a strong fluorine-carbon bond. That bond, according to the International Fire Chiefs Association, has made these chemicals indispensable in aqueous film forming foam used in large-volume flammable liquid firefighting.
Its use for decades in products such as non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and specific types of firefighting foams has made these chemicals ubiquitous in the environment. Excessive exposure to PFAS has been linked to immune system issues, cancer, thyroid hormone distribution, hormone production and regulation, and cholesterol levels.
In a statement released Thursday, Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler said he only learned last week of the firefighting foam incineration locally.
“Based on our preliminary research on the disposal of (the) firefighting foam AFFF, it was immediately clear we needed both answers and expert guidance on the possible transportation to, storage, and incineration of these so-called “forever chemicals” PFOS and/or PFOA at the Norlite facility,” the statement reads.