11 Years After 9/11, First Responders Put at Risk Again from Proposed Natural Gas Compressor Station
After undeniably great sacrifices for their country, an upstate community of 9/11 First Responders, veterans, their widows, and men and women who’ve recently returned from military duty are now finding their wellbeing compromised at the hands of Governor Cuomo’s gas agenda.
A compressor station, commissioned by the Millennium Pipeline and fast-tracked by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), is slated to go up in the middle of a residential community in Minisink, NY, posing both environmental and health risks due to the high quantity of toxic emissions from this type of facility.
A large gas infrastructure is being laid throughout New York State including new pipelines, compressor stations and gas-fired power plants although approval for “hydrofracking” is still yet to be determined. Minisink is at the front line battle for New York, putting our 9/11 heroes’ already compromised health from Ground Zero at greater risk.
When residents first learned of plans to build the facility by Millennium Pipeline, a company owned by NiSource, they turned to their elected government officials for help. Ironically those same officials who invoke the memory of 9/11 every September, ignored their pleas for intervention. "As a first responder of 9/11, I have to strongly argue against the gas compressor in Minisink. Many of my colleagues are suffering and some have died as a result of the toxins in the air we were exposed to at ground zero," said John Odland, a Minisink resident.
Millennium Pipeline predicts that at full capacity the station would release 61,000 tons of pollutants into the air each year, including many known carcinogens, as turbines process and compress natural gas into pipelines for faster, more profitable delivery. Millennium does not deny these pollutants, which in addition to contaminating the air will seep into the soil and the regional watershed.
Vincent Pedre, MD, a NYC integrative physician that worked in the World Trade Center Screening Program for exposed workers at Mount Sinai Medical Center, said, “These First Responders have already faced severe exposures as part of their work. A new exposure like this is surely to lead to further respiratory complications, as well as affect their skin, stomach, nervous system, immune system and delicate hormone balance, possibly leading to cancer and an increased risk for autism in this region.”
Alternative plans do exist and have been documented. The alternative location is in an industrial area that once housed a compressor station that is currently inactive. Joseph Shields, president of Millennium, when asked why they are forcing the issue to place the compressor station in a residentially zoned area, he simply stated, “It’s about economics.”
The residents believe this is an outright lie since the alternative location is known to be the most cost effective and cause less environmental degradation, and is several miles from a residential area. Despite having a clear alternative location three out of five members of FERC voted yes to having the project move forward at the proposed Minisink location, setting an official precedent to ignore community harm.
For a few generations now, Westtown near Minisink, NY has been a haven for many commuting and retired NYC Police and Firefighters, so much so that it’s earned the local nickname, “Guns & Hoses.” Many of these individuals moved to the rural area just over an hour from NYC after the 9/11 tragedy to help them recover from respiratory and other illnesses they developed as a result of their service during 9/11.
There are approximately 190 homes within a half mile from the site of the proposed compressor station. “My family and I will be forced to walk away from our home and lose our life savings. My children will be left with nothing. Not to mention I have suffered a lung related injury that was directly related to the pollutants of 9/11,” said Rob Coppola, a former NYC fireman, and 9/11 First Responder. “I’m not going to tell my children that thing is safe as the city told us ten years ago as we breathed in extremely harmful toxins.”
The gas compressor station has already received permits for construction from FERC as well as from the NY DEC, and is being justified under the pretext of increasing gas supplies to NYC—the same city, that many of these residents spent decades risking their lives for. However the driving force behind the project is Governor Cuomo's plan to open New York to the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, including a plan to build a new gas-fueled power plant in a nearby town by Con-Edison.
John Feal, founder and president of the FealGood Foundation says “Eleven years ago thousands of First Responders were told by authorities that the air at the World Trade Center Site was safe to breathe. Today, we know this statement was untrue and placed a higher importance on economics than human life.”
The compressor station also poses serious safety issues, as evidenced by an explosive fire at an Artemas, PA, compressor station, which destroyed buildings, vehicles and 24 acres of land. The compressor that exploded is owned by NiSource and managed by Columbia Gas. The explosion could be felt from several miles away. Firefighters from five other counties were needed to contain the fire from the blast.
Robin Freunds said "My property in Westtown, New York directly butts up to the proposed site of the Minisink Compressor Project. I have lived in Westtown for 25 years. My husband gave his life on Sept. 11, 2001 as a New York City Fire Officer. The emotional toll this project has taken upon my family is great. I fear for my health, the health of my animals and community safety.”
There is only a small corps of volunteer firefighters in Minisink and no system in place to alert residents to evacuate, and the nearest burn unit is 60 miles away in Westchester, NY. George Racz, a local resident and NYC firefighter said, “We respond to fires on a daily basis in the city. I have been to several gas emergencies. I honestly can say I don’t know what my family’s chances of survival are if this compressor station were to explode.“
The residents continue to face an uphill battle against powerful forces but they are determined to win. Nick Russo said, “I am fighting for everything I ever worked for because some giant guru gas company [Millennium] is looking to destroy it.” The townspeople have hired an attorney in Washington D.C. and are preparing to take FERC to federal court this month.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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