Questionnaire response: Matthew Wahila

Matthew Wahila – Candidate for County Legislator- 07

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1Were you aware of the controversial Lithium-ion battery recycling-incineration issue in Endicott before you received this questionnaire?Yes
2Are you aware of IBM’s past serious contamination of Endicott and its effects on the residents?Yes
3Did you know that the water in Endicott is contaminated by 1, 4 Dioxane which the state also restricted and that Endicott is in the top 10 of contamination statewide?Yes
4Did you know that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported that contaminants in Endicott’s drinking water (data analyzed between 2012-2017) contained a high number of cancer-causing substances that were far in excess of the legal limits?No
5One of the reasons given for approving the project is that the area is already contaminated. Do you think the contaminated areas in Endicott should be cleaned up?Yes
6Taking into account the above, do you think that Endicott should accept a first-of-its-kind battery recycling-incineration process in the United States that will release serious toxins and four known human carcinogens into the air as mentioned in the DEC’s Air Permit of March 2020?No
7Do you think it is acceptable in the 21st Century for communities to be forced to accept a polluting industry?No
8If the majority of your constituents were opposed to a proposal would you fight for them?Yes
9Have you talked to Mayor Jackson about the project and the benefits to the Village of Endicott?No
10Has Stephen Donnelly, PR firm for Sungeel MCC, contacted you about the project and asked for your support?No
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11What is your opinion of the proposed Lithium-ion Battery Recycling-Incineration facility?I have a mixed opinion. There are definite environmental and safety concerns that need to be fully and satisfactorily addressed before the facility (or any industrial facility) should ever be allowed to operate within our community. They need to comply fully with NYS regulations and regulatory agencies, and be open and forthcoming with the community about exactly what they will be doing at the facility and the risks involved so that the residents can have an informed say in the matter. And if the residents do not want the facility after learning all of the facts, then they should not be allowed to operate here. The residents should get the last say in what goes in within our community.
However, I do believe battery recycling in general is a necessary industry that our nation needs to pursue in some form in order to deal with the battery waste we’re constantly generating. Recycling is necessary to protect our environment from the contamination and environmental damage that battery waste creates, but also to ensure our limited supplies of rare metals, like Cobalt, do not run out and/or become prohibitively expensive. And of course I would also like to see the Huron Campus buildings get some sort of productive, economic activity generating use instead of further decaying and continuing to be a blight on our community and downtown Endicott. Whether or not the proposed SungEel facility should be a part of any of that, I’m uncertain at the moment.
Before making any final determinations I feel like I need more information about the details of the battery processing, the facility management and monitoring, and other information from the State regulatory agencies and the company. And also more input from the community.
At the moment I feel like all of our information is being filtered through either the company (which clearly has a stake in the matter) and through untrained, unknowledgeable politicians and businessmen. We really need some scientists in positions of power who actually understand these sorts of issues. Unfortunately, as a private citizen, I don’t have the same level of access to important information as our current elected officials. However, once elected to the BC Legislature, you can be sure I will use my position to actually investigate and understand this issue. And I will do my best to inform my constituents about what is really going on and listen to their input.
12What do you think is the biggest risk?I think the transportation of the battery waste to the facility is certainly an issue that needs to be examined. How much battery waste and reclaimed materials will be transported into and out of the facility on a daily basis and what sort of risk (noise, pollution, traffic accidents, fires, etc) will that pose to the nearby residents? Of course we already have potentially explosive gasoline tankers constantly rolling through the area delivering gas to the nearby gas stations, so it’s not like this is an entirely brand new issue for any community.
As long as the afterburner system operates as the company says it will, my understanding is that it should destroy any potentially harmful emissions coming from the electrolyte drying process in the drying kiln. It seems to be a commonly used remediation technique for industrial processes that generate similar sorts of emissions. Of course I’m not an expert on this specific industrial-scale chemical process, so I would need to look into that a lot more before I could say one way or another whether that part of the process would pose a serious risk to the community.
Once the batteries are dried in the drying kiln, they should pose no risk of short circuiting and catching on fire. However, what about before the drying process begins? What safe guards will be put in place to ensure the batteries don’t pose a risk after unloading from a truck, but before reaching that stage in the process? I would definitely like more information from the company on this part of the process. Especially about the prospect of any long term storage of this unprocessed battery waste.
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