Seeking to signficantly expand its operations, TCI of NY quietly filed hundreds of pages of applications in the past year with State and Federal authorities—without ever applying to agencies of the Town of Ghent to comply with local zoning.
Buried in a 440-page document, revelations of these planned changes by TCI in the year before their catastrophic August fire emerged after a long wait for a response to a Freedom of Information Law request to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
DEC finally coughed up the 440-page document three months after this site placed multiple reminder calls and emails. (FOIL requests are normally dealt with within 5-to-20 days.) The State application, which includes materials submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was finally produced only once this site notified the DEC public relations office that a press release detailing the agency’s non-responsiveness was in the works.
The document obtained is eye-opening to say the least. TCI’s application materials reveal, among other things, that the company sought permission to begin:
• Handling regulated PCB waste of a much higher concentration than non-PCB or unregulated PCB waste;
• Installing a new 8,000-gallon PCB storage tank;
• Storing 280,000 pounds of untested, undrained electrical equipment which are assumed to have under 499 ppm of PCBs;
• Storing 70,000 pounds of undrained PCB-contaminated electrical equipment;
• Storing 60 drums of PCB-contaminated fluid; and
• Storing 40,000 pounds of PCB transformers.
Minutes of the Ghent Planning Board do not indicate that such major changes to the TCI facility were ever brought before them for review and approval.
At an August 1st Planning Board meeting held just hours before the massive fire was discovered, TCI’s representatives from Crawford & Associates presented minor amendments to a site plan for a 650-square-foot office addition, stating that “nothing new will be going on at the plant, only existing work.”
A request by one member to review any DEC permitting was noted in the minutes, but the request was “withdrawn” f0llowing these assurances by TCI as well as from the Planning Board Chair that everything was in order.
Legally, an applicant must seek permission from local authorities for activities covered by local zoning codes, even if they are permitted by other agencies. Indeed, that is just what scuttled TCI’s attempt to build a PCB incinerator in Ghent in the late 1980s; even though NYS DEC casually greenlighted the project, the Town (and neighbors) objected and stopped it from happening based on local rules.
Moreover, under the Ghent Zoning Code new activities and changes in use must be brought before the appropriate board(s) when their scope exceeds their original permit, and/or when changes are proposed after the date of changes to the Code.
The 440-page application submitted to the State and Feds also includes many eyebrow-raising statements. For example, a review of working conditions and worker qualifications concedes that while some employees would be working with materials such as explosives and toxic chemicals, it then goes on to say that these workers will not need any prior experience or training. A young employee died at TCI after exposure to freon gas in 1989.
The Ghent Planning Board meets again tonight at 7 pm at Town Hall, and TCI once again may be on the agenda, seeking to rebuild its facility, which also had a fire in January. NOTE CORRECTED MEETING TIME
A copy of the 440-page application (which is a very large file) is available upon request via email.