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- Background on this issue
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- Updates - read and subscribe to recent updates on this project
- Timeline - the issues that have come up and how we've engaged with them
- Data - supporting data we have related to this issue
Background on this issue:
The noxious odors that are emitted from Aluf have been negatively affecting the community for decades. The odors have been described as “burning/burnt plastic, with and without a floral odor; plastic; floral/ perfume; chemical; choking, potent and noxious.” Residents complain of headaches, sore throats, nausea and dizziness from exposure to the noxious odors.
In 2016 the odors became even more troublesome and the grassroots group, Clean Air for Orangetown (CA4O) was formed, forcing the Town and State to address to ongoing odors from Aluf Plastics. CA4O has obtained volumes of information on Aluf’s troubled history in Orangetown, NY (1986- present) through the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Read more background information on this blog post.
Aluf Plastics, located at 2 Glenshaw Street in Orangeburg, NY. Aluf is located in close proximity (within ½ mile or less) to a high school, an elementary school, playgrounds, athletic fields, a college and their dorms, several preschools, a walking trail, a church and many homes.
The goal of Clean Air for Orangetown is to stop the ongoing odors and pollution from Aluf Plastics.
About Aluf Plastics:
Aluf Plastics processes plastic materials (low and high density polyethylene) into plastic bags for commercial, industrial and retail customers in a blown film process. In its Reprocessing department, Aluf also recycles off-specification polyethylene, some of which comes from scrap from internal Aluf process lines. All of Aluf’s plastic processing involves extruding, or melting, polyethylene at high temperatures (typically in the range of 400-560 degrees F). The 1/23/17report from Korlipara Engineering – a firm hired by Aluf - describes the process in greater detail. The operation runs 6 days a week 24 hours a day. The factory opened with seven extruders and eight bag machines in 1986. The plant now operates 70 blown film lines and is approximately 500,000 square feet.
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|Residents are fighting back against plastics odors in this small NY town||@stevie||8 months ago||0||11|
Timeline of Documentation and Action:
1992: Carconogines documented in groundwater from discharges
Aluf sits on protected groundwater and near tributaries which lead to the Sparkill Creek. As early as 1990, discharges were documented as coming from Aluf Plastics. The results of the samples collected include: Chloroform, Tetrachloroethylene, 1,1,1 Trichloroethane, Tert-Butylbenzene, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, Ethylbenzene, Isoprpylbenzene, n-Propylbenzene, Toluene, 1,2,4-Trimethylbenzene, 1,3,5-Trimethylbenzene, Total Xylenes, Napthalene. The report concluded:
“The results of the samples confirmed that the materials in the stream were being discharged from the sump in the basement of Aluf Plastics.” In 1992, there are official letters between the State and County claiming that “this has happened too many times with no consequence.”
2006: Air testing
Limited air tests have been performed at the facility by various agencies since 2006, but the tests have been plagued with problems. In 2006, stack testing was performed by Gammie Air Monitoring, LLC - a firm which Aluf had hired for this project. The Rockland County regulators found many problems with these tests and determined that:
“In consideration of the various irregularities that occurred during testing, including process and control equipment performance that is not representative of normal plant operation, sampling performed at Aluf on 7/27/06 does not meet criteria required to be accepted for compliance determination purposes.”
The factory was issued violations but no records of any further testing exist until 2017 after pressure from CA4O.
2009: Soil contamination documented
In 2009, a subsurface evaluation revealed:
“Polyethylene bead debris was noted in the first approximately 4-6 inches of soil/..../ Concentrations of PAHs benzo(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, chrysene, diben(a,h)anthracene, and indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene were detected in this sample above TAGM 4046.”
2011: Elevating ground water concerns
Ground contamination has also been a significant problem at this facility for many years and further documentation can be found in the Legette, Brashears and Graham report from 2011. There are many documented spills which have occurred on the Aluf premises.
2016: Formation of CA40
In 2016 the odors became even more troublesome and the grassroots group, Clean Air for Orangetown (CA4O) was formed.
2017: Identifying the Acrolein issue
In January, 2017, Korlipara Engineering, submitted a report to NYS DEC indicating that the odor may be caused by aldehydes - specifically Acrolein.
“A light blue haze is visible in areas of the plant during operations. The haze would likely be caused by the release of particulates and fugitives during manufacturing/... /This ambient air, potentially containing fugitive fumes, is presently being exhausted to the outdoor air/…./ It can be assumed that such fumes contain the very aldehydes that are considered to be the chemicals of concern.”
In September, 2017, the NYS DEC Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer reported via email to CA4O that:
“(Stack testing) showed Acrolein at levels below our short term guidance levels and odor threshold. But you have to understand that during a stack test the company is watching their operations very closely. No burning or high temps during the tests. My belief is that what we are dealing with is fugitive, doesn't leave through the stacks. The inside of the building gets a blue haze and contaminants build up and then are released to the environment at a level above the odor threshold (0.2 ppm)."
Holes in the factory and emissions escaping without filtration were confirmed by the NYS DEC following the stack testing.
In February, 2017, CA4O received a report from Environmental Odour Consulting. The report concluded that:
“The most common practice and best method for establishing the odour removal efficiency of the carbon unit is to collect odour samples at the inlet and outlet of the carbon unit to determine odour concentration before treatment, and after treatment with carbon. NO ODOUR REMOVAL EFFICIENCY TESTS were performed on installed carbon unit including odour testing at the inlet and outlet of the carbon unit. NO STUDIES FOR ODOUR REMOVAL EFFICIENCY OVER TIME were performed at that facility in order to determine the odour removal efficiency of carbon units over the time/…./ Also, NO AMBIENT ODOUR assessment was performed in the affected areas which may include the ambient odour assessments according to the recognized standards for the determination of the ambient odours. Only a few grab samples for VOC and particulate analysis were taken during a single episode without any monitoring of the facility process/…./ There are different standard procedures for sampling for specific compounds and they will depend on the type of compound, therefore testing only for VOC is not enough for determination of the odour problem in the affected areas.”
As far as CA4O knows, no odour assessments have ever been performed at the factory.
In October, 2017, NYS DEC asked the town hired firm TRC to test for Acrolein in the ambient air tests. The reports found Acrolein at levels exceeding NYS DEC Short Term Concentration Guidelines in many of the ambient air samples - especially in the canister tests which were taken by residents at times of extreme odors. During some of these intense odor events, the complaints were dramatic. During the exact time some of these resident canister tests were taken in October, 2017, a resident emailed the Town writing:
“The Town of Orangetown is a becoming a place that you cannot breathe. Right now, I am closing my windows. I cannot breathe. The smell is making me ill. And my throat is beginning to hurt. I just got home ten minutes ago from work and the air quality is horrid. I can smell burning plastic and chemicals in the air. I have no doubt it is coming from Aluf Plastics on Route 303. Please send someone over right now to check it out. They promise to be good neighbors, but they are not. They are killing us. They are sending good people away.” Local scientists and doctors became concerned with the test results, calling for further air testing because: “Acrolein was on average 20 times higher than the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry Minimum Risk Level (ATSDR MRL) at intermediate (15-365 days) exposure duration, which is 0.092 ug/m³.” The Town of Orangetown hired a Toxicologist who states that “TRC does not believe that exposure to these measured concentrations would result in negative health effects.”
Local scientists and physicians from the community challenged this assessment.
After continuing pressure from the science and medical community regarding the ambient air test results, the NYS DEC acknowledged that Acrolein levels were unusually high and stated that they believe the collection method may be problematic; however residents were never again given the opportunity to take canister tests at times of extreme odors. Further concluding tests were taken by the Town, but not at times of high odor concentrations. The community cannot dismiss the results of the resident air canister tests because these tests were taken at times when the odor was choking. No other tests have been taken at times when the odors were being emitted with such concentration. Some of the residents who took these concerning air canister tests on their properties have since sold their homes and moved out of the area.
A new ventilation system was installed and the system was finally turned on November 20, 2017, after years of complaints from the community about odors from Aluf, but the odors continued to intensify.
2019: Violating Orangetown Code
Two years later, even with new ventilation systems installed, the odors continue to rage in 2019. People exposed to these odors experience physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, burning respiratory passages and sore throats. A recent complain is from Veteran’s Day (11/11/19) from a resident who rated the odor a 10/10 in intensity. This resident has been complaining to County, Town and State agencies for a decade and installed an air filtration system in her home in order to cope with the odors. This resident, like many, is often unable to enjoy her property due to the noxious odors. Over three prior, on October 31, 2016, the same resident reported:
“Strong smell from ALUF on 10/31/16… Two and a half hours straight from 5:30 - 8pm. This was a terrible way to spend trick or treating tonight.”
In November, 2019 the Orangetown Justice Court found API Industries, Inc. (Aluf Plastics) guilty of violating Orangetown Town Code with respect to odor emissions on five separate occasions in November and December 2018, yet in the days immediately following this conviction, the odors have intensified. The recognition of five odor occasions is a drop in the bucket. Since 2016, CA4O estimates that there have been over 1400 odor complaints from members of the community.
As of November, 2019, CA4O is not aware of any plans to test the soil at Aluf, although we have continuously advocated for stack, soil and groundwater testing to take place because of the factory’s proximity to many private residences, schools and the vast amount of protected groundwater which leads to the Sparkill Creek. CA4O has collaborated with the Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance; however the SCWA is not able to test for the chemicals which could potentially be discharged from Aluf into the groundwater.