NoBurnBroome Press Release
May 21, 2020
For more information contact Paul Connett, 607-217-5350
DEC Delivers Setback to Endicott’s Lithium-ion Battery Recycling Scheme
A dramatic development took place yesterday which may derail the SungEel battery recycling project in Endicott. Reginald Parker, Regional Engineer for Region 7 of the Department of Environmental Conservation, sent a letter to SungEel expressing concerns about the possibility that there are PFAS in some of the lithium ion batteries they plan to recycle in their high temperature process. PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) are very toxic, and very stable to heat, and notoriously difficult to burn safely even at 1000 degrees centigrade (1832 degrees Fahrenheit).
According to Dr. Linda Birnbaum, recently retired director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, “PFAS are the ‘dioxins’ of the 21st Century.”
The DEC has given the company two options: either they do more emission testing at their sister plant in Gushan, South Korea, or they come up with a plan that demonstrates they can exclude any lithium-ion batteries that contain PFAS. The latter may be very difficult because there are so many different batteries and the DEC’s tolerance for PFAS emissions is ZERO.
If the plant is retested for PFAS emissions (both in the waste water from the wet scrubber and in the emissions from the chimney) and they are found, it would require the air permit be re-opened and subject to public comment.
Either way this is a major setback to the company because it will delay the start of their operations for many months or several years.
NoBurnBroome is appreciative of the DEC’s due diligence in this matter, and especially for its zero tolerance to these highly toxic compounds.
Science spokesperson for NoBurnBroome, Paul Connett, PhD, added,
“We are proud to say that it was the NoBurnBroome science team that brought the PFAS issue to the attention of the DEC. We found that the substance Lithium bis(trifluoromethanesulfonyl)imide (a PFAS) is used as an alternative electrolyte to lithium hexafluorophosphate in some batteries.
“While PFAS are very stable chemically they are extremely difficult to destroy with heat as in the SungEel process. In NoBurnBroome’s view lithium ion batteries should never be exposed to high temperatures because of the many toxic compounds that are released including hydrogen fluoride (HF) which could be produced in kilogram amounts (we estimate as much as 30 kg of HF (66 pounds) will be produced every hour the plant is operating).
“The PFAS may simply be the tip of the iceberg as far as the overall toxicity of the substances that will be produced by their kiln and afterburner.”
If the PFAS emissions are tested in South Korea it is essential in our view that the correct monitoring protocols are checked by an independent third party and not left to the company itself. NoBurnBroome requests that the material being burned during these tests is verified.
We do not want to see a repeat of Sungeel’s hopelessly inadequate testing for dioxins, which consisted of one short 4-hour test, when 4-week testing is available.
Fortunately, the NY Empire State Development fund included in their $1.75 million grant to SungEel, $750,000 for “monitoring and evaluation” of the facility in Endicott. Under the current circumstances NoBurnBroome believes it would be better for the DEC to spend a substantial amount of that money monitoring the facility in South Korea before allowing it to operate in Endicott. But that testing needs to be done carefully and thoroughly. To this end NoBurnBroome recommend
1- A testing company be used which is familiar with the protocols for the testing of perfluorinated compounds and 4-week testing of dioxins.
2- An independent company be hired to confirm
a) that the material burned during the tests are the same lithium-ion batteries that are proposed for Endicott NY; and
b) the correct protocols for monitoring the pollutants are followed.