May 31, 2020. Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton NY. Page 12A.
I’d like to respond to recent references from the press and Endicott Mayor Linda Jackson regarding Dr. Stan Wittingham’s endorsement of the siting of the SMCC lithium-ion battery incinerator in the Village of Endicott.
While brilliant in his own right, Dr. Wittingham is not a toxicologist or an environmental expert. He is a Nobel prize winner for co-developing the lithium-ion batter y concept; however, lithium-ion batter y incineration is a very different matter.
We still do not know what happens to certain fluorinated compounds (e.g., PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl substances) found in lithium-ion batteries when they are subjected to high temperatures.
Mayor Jackson and the Press need to stop conflating Dr. Wittingham’s background as a lithium-ion battery developer with a lithium-ion battery incinerator environmental impact expert. We have established the fact that some lithium-ion batteries contain PFAS compounds that do not burn well. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stated that PFAS may not be able to be adequately destroyed by incineration.
Also, large amounts of hydrofluoric acid (HF) will be produced during the incineration of the batteries. HF can burn glass and metals, and turn your lungs into jelly on contact. If the incinerator treatment system fails for even a short period of time, HF, among other things, will find their way into the ambient air. Do Dr. Wittingham and Mayor Jackson know this, and do they believe this is an acceptable risk to the Village of Endicott and the families living in that neighborhood?
The New York State Department of Environmental Conser vation issued SMCC an air quality permit without even recognizing that PFAS were present in lithium-ion batteries and therefore did not require SMCC to provide stack testing for these per vasive “forever” toxins.
On May 20, the DEC issued SMCC a letter requiring their permit to be modified to properly address the PFAS issue. If we hadn’t raised this question, the DEC would have never known the difference, and SMCC would have gone right ahead and started throwing these batteries right into the incinerator. SMCC wouldn’t have done some quick homework for a recent rebuttal to see how hot you need to run an incinerator to destroy PFAS, finding a reference from 2005 stating that about 1,000 degrees Celsius should do the job. So SMCC moved the needle from 800 degrees C (stated in their original air permit) to 1,000 degrees C.
A recent presentation from the EPA suggests that the scientific community does not know enough about PFAS incineration to determine whether PFAS compounds can be adequately destroyed in an incinerator, or what their breakdown byproducts might be.
In addition, we don’t even have good lab methods to do stack testing on these PFAS compounds just yet. I wonder what else we all don’t know about incinerating lithium-ion batteries.
John Ruspantini is an Endicott