Before TCI moved to Ghent, it was known variously as Trans-Cycle Industries and TCI Incorporated. Documents from the early 1980s show the company was dogged by residents reporting fires at and emissions from its Newburgh location. The company initially tried to move to Athens (NY), but ran into a buzzsaw of community opposition.
The opposition of Athens’ first responders was particularly instrumental to TCI’s defeat there. The 1980s document above (found in a large archive of legal papers held by a Ghent resident’s attorneys) reveals what the firefighters of the Town and Village of Athens thought about the project. The Athens firefighters opposed it based on their assessment that that:
- the “hazardous materials” handled by TCI “could pose health hazards during a fire”;
- fighting such a fire would require extensive “public infrastructure”;
- “a fire in this industry has implications for the public health”;
- “an inadequate response” to such a fire could have implications “beyond property damage”;
- these implications could include “the issue of toxic fumes... if a fire cannot be contained satisfactorily”;
- “water used to put out the fire” could be “contaminated” and “run into the ground.”
Abandoning the idea of moving from Newburgh to Athens, TCI set its sights on Ghent, securing permission in 1986-87 from the Town to build a structure on land owned by David Rivenburgh.
No similar objections appear to have been raised, except for the Town Planning Board chair briefly quizzing the company in a short letter about the potential presence of PCBs onsite. The same archive referenced above contains a 1988 letter from TCI of NY President David Laskin to a lawfirm in New York City, which purports to memorialize a visit to TCI by West Ghent fire chief Tom Rivenburg—a different spelling of the name, and no known relation to David:
Here, Laskin claims that Rivenburg said that “I don’t see any problem” with the facility’s arrangements. The letter also claims that “the fire department has been supplied with the same SPCC [Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure] Plan that has been supplied to the DEC and all pertinent Material Safety Data Sheets,” and that this had also been forwarded to the Columbia County Emergency Management office.
The letter further invited “the entire fire department” to tour TCI’s newly-built plant, which Laskins says has “an open-door policy to enable concerned citizens to view our operations.”
Today, multiple reports indicate that the remains of the TCI facility is under 24-hour armed guard while it is being demolished and, the public has been told, remediated of any pollutants. A stormwater plan for the site was recently agreed to by TCI and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, but not before almost a foot of rain has fallen on the site since the time of the catastrophic fire.