Controversial shipments of fluorinated firefighting foam to eastern New York state for disposal have been suspended to allow testing for PFAS surrounding the incineration facility, the Department of Defense announced Thursday.
The action came one day after U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer appealed to DOE officials to grant a request by Tradebe Treatment and Recycling for a six- to eight-month suspension of its contract to dispose of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) at the company’s Norlite facility in Cohoes, NY.
“The DOD’s rash and unwise continuous push for Norlite to continue to burn highly toxic, fire-resistant, and carcinogenic chemicals, like PFAS, close to the homes of so many New Yorkers makes absolutely no sense and needs to stop, right now,” Schumer said.
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFOA and PFOS 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.
However, its use for decades in products such as non-stick cookware, fast food wrappers, stain-resistant sprays and specific types of firefighting foams has also made fluorinated 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.
Norlite was scheduled to receive 58,000 gallons of PFAS-laden AFFF due for shipment from the Norfolk Naval Station this week. The Norlite kiln has been under renovation, making this the first shipment incinerated this year.
Although the company incinerated AFFF at Norlite in 2018 and 2019, it voluntarily suspended operations to allow further testing after an EPA report advised against the use of incineration to destroy PFAS compounds.
“The bottom line is that it makes no sense to try to burn a cancer-causing toxic substance and then disperse it into our air, soil and water,” Schumer said. “So, the Navy and DOD need to cease and desist from this unsafe practice forthwith.”
A lawsuit filed in California by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups in February charges that the contract between DOD and Tradebe required validation by EPA to be legal.