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Environmental Council prepares report on TCI fire

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HUDSON–The Columbia County Environmental Management Council decided this week to write a report for the county Board of Supervisors on the TCI of NY fire. The council discussed plans for the report Monday the group’s monthly meeting Monday, February 25.

TCI’s West Ghent site burned in a massive fire in August that generated a plume of smoke and led to air quality alerts in much of the county. The company prepares transformers for recycling by draining oil containing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and dismantling the equipment.

The report by the county EMC will outline the issues raised by the incident, as well as offer recommendations to the county for the future.

The council’s role is to advise the county on matters pertaining to the environment. It was created by the Board of Supervisors in 1974 pursuant to the Local Environmental Protection Act.

EMC Chairman Ed Simonsen proposed the idea of a TCI report after drafting a letter to the council explaining the issues and concerns he had. While his idea mainly met with concurrence from other EMC board members, a couple were initially opposed.

“We don’t have the expertise,” said council member Kathryn Schneider. “We’re not a fire investigative unit, or a PCB-research unit or anything like that.”

Mr. Simonsen responded by asking, “How much of an expert do we have to be to know that PCBs are toxic?”

Another council member said that it is a Ghent issue, and should remain as such. Mr. Simonsen disagreed, saying that “the effect of the incident did not stop at the borders of the Town of Ghent.”

After lengthy discussion, the council agreed to take the points Mr. Simonsen raised in his letter and structure them into a report to the Board of Supervisors.

In a phone call with the Columbia Paper after the meeting, Mr. Simonsen declined to discuss the issues raised in his letter to the EMC, saying that the contents of the report are still a work in progress. But he did say that the report’s purpose will be to make suggestions to the county to help prevent future incidents, and to help “keep the community safe.”

The council’s next meeting will be March 25 at 7 p.m. at the County Office Building, 401 State Street.

 

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