Senator Neil Breslin and Assemblymember John McDonald Highlight Legislation to Prohibit the Incineration of Firefighting Foam to Protect Public Health and Safety

State, local officials, and environmental groups support the enactment of A.9952/S.7880 into law
March 2, 2020

Albany, NY – Senator Neil Breslin and Assemblymember John T. McDonald III have introduced legislation (A.9952/S.7880) to prohibit the incineration of firefighting foam containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Despite the fact that the safety of incineration as a method to dispose of PFAS firefighting foam is still being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) entered into a contract with the Norlite facility in Cohoes, NY to incinerate PFAS firefighting foam without appropriate environmental review and was previously incinerating PFAS foam at the facility.

The legislation would implement a ban on incinerating firefighting foam that contains PFAS chemicals to ensure that the safety of the incineration method is verified and avoid any risk to health and safety. A clear determination must be made regarding any potential effects PFAS incineration, the risks associated with PFAS contamination are too great as we have seen in Hoosick Falls and other communities.

Assemblymember John T. McDonald III said, “Too often we have to intervene after the fact when environmental protection and safety issues arise, and this legislation is an effort to be proactive in avoiding any potential threats to our communities and residents. We must have assurances that this method of disposal is safe and will not result in any public health risk to the Capital Region before any further incineration proceeds. I appreciate the swift action undertaken by all of our federal, state, and local partners along with the strong advocacy of our environmental partners on this issue.”

Senator Neil Breslin said, “We cannot bypass the EPA and allow the pollution of PFAS into our air and water. This legislation will protect public health and ensure that the necessary time is taken to examine the effects of PFAS firefighting foam incineration.”

“Failure to address PFAS pollution puts countless Americans at risk,” Congressman Tonko said. “We have a responsibility to those in our Capital Region and beyond to ensure that these ‘forever chemicals’ do not contaminate our drinking water or air and are stored and disposed of in ways that reflect the incredible threat they pose to our communities. I commend Senator Breslin and Assemblymember McDonald for their swift action that prioritizes the health and safety of the people of Cohoes. I promise to continue to fight for legislation that confronts America’s PFAS pollution crisis in Washington.”

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, “While we have been working at the state level to safeguard our drinking water from PFAS and restrict its use in firefighting foams, apparently the federal government has contracted to pollute our air with PFAS by burning those same firefighting foams. We cannot and will not solve one environmental crisis by replacing it with another. Capital region residents and New Yorkers across the state should not have to worry that the air they breathe is being polluted with chemicals that we know are harmful.”

Assemblymember Phil Steck said, “The dangers that PFAS chemicals pose to human health is well-known. According to the EPA, exposure to these chemicals has been linked to high rates of thyroid disease, immune suppression, and reduced fertility. I commend Senator Breslin and Assemblymember McDonald for sponsoring this important legislation.”

City of Cohoes Mayor William Keeler said, “Given what we do know about the hazards of PFAS chemicals, and the lack of solid science on the impact of burning firefighting foam AFFF containing these so-called ‘forever chemicals,’ it makes no sense to allow these hazardous materials to be incinerated, particularly with 70 families living in public housing in the shadows of the Norlite facility. On behalf of the people of Cohoes, I applaud Senator Breslin, Assemblyman McDonald, and all who are supporting this moratorium on the incineration of firefighting foam AFFF. Our utmost concern must be for the immediate and long-term health and safety of the people of Cohoes and the surrounding area potentially affected.”

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said, “The recent revelation of incineration of fire-retardant foam containing PFAS at the Norlite facility located in Cohoes is extremely disturbing. Given the numerous instances, both nationally and within New York State, of PFAS and its related chemicals contaminating the environment, it seems obvious that legislative efforts such as this should be undertaken as quickly as possible to prevent further risk to the public. Until definitive scientific evidence shows such practices are safe and effective, all processing of PFAS foam in this way should be prohibited.”

“Rensselaer County is already with a troubled toxic legacy. Reasonable steps need to be taken to ensure the health, safety and quality of life of our residents, particularly as prevailing winds blow east from the site into our county. I appreciate Assemblyman McDonald and Senator Breslin introducing this resolution, and again I urge increased oversight by state and federal agencies of this issue,” said County Executive Steve McLaughlin.

"Norlite and all other incineration facilities should not be allowed to burn firefighting foam. PFAS chemicals are used in firefighting foam because they don't burn. The toxic chemicals are not destroyed but are released into the air. It is unconscionable that Norlite burned this material in 2018 and 2019, did not tell the public, and has plans to continue burning later this year. This must be stopped. Norlite has to come clean and tell us the quantities of what they burned, where it came from, and how it is stored in Cohoes. I applaud Assemblymember John McDonald, Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, Assemblymember Phil Steck, and Senator Neil Breslin for introducing this very important bill that will protect residents of Cohoes and the region from this serious pollution threat. It is imperative that this bill swiftly becomes law. This bold leadership is deeply appreciated," said Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator and Visiting Professor at Bennington College.