Hudson resident Peter Seward, who has dealt with many materials and remediation issues on jobsites, points out that while the main focus of official concern regarding the TCI fire in Ghent has been PCBs, that questions ought to be raised about other pollutants as well.
Seward urges the public to also be mindful of “the fact that [what burned] was a hazardous waste site.” There ought to be, he says, an additional focus on waste oil, which “consists of bitumen by products which in turn consist of: arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead” and other worrisome components.
The question agencies such as DEC ought to be asked, Seward says, is: “Why is used oil regulated?” He further notes that
“Only through legal practices, and with set high temperatures, are such toxic things allowed to be burned. We, as a community, all may consider this... including the first responders, who, likely, suffer the most from the initial start of the fire until its demise. This isn’t a simple thing—very unlike what we have to deal with daily. This has been a real life hazardous waste fire. It requires thoughtful consideration, not bigotry and unnecessary ‘passing the torch’ to the state.”
One also wonders what other materials were onsite in the way of (for example) plastics, vinyl, metals, treated lumber, etc.; a waste handling structure is not built like an ordinary framed house.
Meanwhile, back on the PCB question, an environmental scientist in Kinderhook writes to a neighbor, after checking with a source familiar with utility companies’ practices for recycling transformers:
“TCI is considered a transfer station, in that they do not treat or incinerate the metal and the mineral oil. They send it elsewhere for destruction. The mineral oil contains the PCBs, and their permit should indicate the volume they are allowed to have onsite at any given time. If you know the maximum volume allowed, and the ppm limit for PCB, then you can get an idea of how much risk there is when the facility has a fire. Someone would have to do a ‘worst case’ modeling run to estimate exposure to surrounding environment and people.”
Part of the problem (per my interviews with DEC and DOH officials) is that none of these agencies appear to have any definitive idea of what was in or around the building at the time of the fire. Those agencies are either still trying to gather information—in the case of DEC, they have no shipping manifests for TCI in the public database after March of this year—or have made assumptions based on the company’s claims and others’ suppositions.