Letter: Rebutting the Endicott mayor and the DEC

October 4, 2020

Your Turn
By John Ruspantini, Guest columnist
Press & Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton NY)

I’m responding to Village of Endicott Mayor Linda Jackson’s comments published on Sept. 20.

I take issue with the term “battery recycling.” Under federal regulation, batteries, though they contain hazardous substances, are not considered hazardous waste when we dispose of them. This is because the government wants to relax hazardous waste restrictions to make it easier for batteries to be recycled. So, discarded batteries are called “universal waste,” not “hazardous waste.”

SungEel is exploiting this loophole to avoid hazardous waste disposal facility restrictions. The purpose of the Endicott facility would be to dispose of the parts of the battery that are not valuable, which NoBurnBroome (NBB) estimates to be about 40% of the composition of incoming batteries. The goal is to capture the valuable metals that are in the batteries, such as lithium, manganese and cobalt. However, what is left behind from the high-temperature process in Endicott must be further processed in South Korea. So there really isn’t anything coming out of the Endicott facility that would be ready for manufacturing. This facility will be used for disposal, just like any hazardous waste incinerator.

The mayor referenced a DEC letter that was sent to me back in August of this year that allegedly resolved all of NBB’s concerns regarding this project. The mayor neglected to mention that Dr. Paul Connett and I wrote a 27-page response to that DEC letter which systematically refuted everything the DEC had to offer in response to our concerns (see fluoridealert.org/ wp-content/uploads/endicott.nbb-response-todec. elter_.9-16-20.pdf ). Moreover, we pointed out that the PFAS issue was much greater than we originally thought. Nearly every lithium ion battery contains PFAS — the “forever toxin” that is the current public health nightmare.

NBB recently obtained PFAS lab data from SungEel’s sister plant in South Korea that demonstrated the presence and predicted emissions of PFAS in their process. It is becoming clear that the Endicott plant will be releasing PFAS into our air. But there currently are no promulgated standards for these emissions. How then, would the DEC be able to determine what is safe to release to our air?

The state only recently promulgated PFAS maximum contaminant levels in drinking water at 10 parts per trillion — an extremely low number. The reason why the limits are so low is because these compounds remain in our bodies for long periods of time and therefore accumulate.

PFAS have been associated with cancers, high cholesterol levels and endocrine disruption, among other things. Mayor Jackson calls this kind of talk “fear tactics.” I call it genuine concern for the health and safety of Endicott.

So, at the end of the day, bringing industry back to Endicott is the only way to save it from becoming a ghost town, according to Mayor Jackson. The irony here is that SungEel will pay no taxes as a renter, offer a minimal amount of high-risk jobs, send precious resources to Asia, and expose us to more pollution. This kind of industry we don’t need.

John Ruspantini is an Endicott resident.

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