Updated 09/26/2012 07:17 PM
EPA Has New Plan to Stop Hillcrest Fire in Attica
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"This was a known problem there… a known problem,” said Assemblyman Dan Burling, (R), 147th District.
The glass bottles and jars, and scraps of paper, plastic, and food waste, all mixed together on the back lot of Attica's Hillcrest Industries, originally came from Toronto, Canada.
"The city of Toronto knew full well that the glass contained more than ten-percent residue,” said Burling.
Burling, who represents the Village of Attica, first discovered this fact in paperwork handed to him by a village resident.
"It was a staff action report from the City of Toronto."
YNN obtained a copy of that report, and it contains new details. According to the report, a year-and-half-ago, the City of Toronto's recyclable glass was being processed under contract by a Canadian company called Klareco. But, in May of 2011, part of the Klareco plant was damaged, when large amounts of paper and plastic mixed in with that glass caught fire.
The report from the City of Toronto mentions one fire at the Klareco glass processing plant that caused that company to shut down its operation. But Klareco officials told YNN on the phone there were as many as five fires last year, resulting from that kind of glass, that caused significant damage to their plant.
Because of the fires, Klareco said it terminated its recycling contract. With few options left, the City of Toronto turned to Hillcrest in Attica.
"We fast-forward, take a look at what's going on now: we've got a burning, internal combustion process going on – over 700 degrees," said Burling.
It's driven Burling to write the State Department of Environmental Conservation, asking for punitive action against Hillcrest.
"It was pretty evident to me that it was a business decision made on the behalf of Hillcrest, that was quite lucrative, but they had to know the hazards that were involved."
The hazard being the fire – and the solution is not easy. For months, Hillcrest has been trying to extinguish the fire on its own, with no success. Now the EPA is involved, and Wednesday, the agency announced its first attempt to douse the fire with flame retardant foam has failed.
"We have determined that the only way to put this fire out, is to break the pile apart,” said Mike Basile, EPA spokesman.
This Saturday, crews will dig in and dismantle the acre-wide pile, and fight the fire bit by bit. It's expected that more smoke and steam will be released, and the stench may get worse before it gets better.
"We will be conducting air monitoring to ensure the safety of the people doing the job on the site, and have air monitoring stations off the site, and if there is any concern, we will shut the operations down,” Basile said.
Residents near the plant told us that this treatment is better than nothing. They say if they must suffer for a week to breathe better for the rest of their lives, it's probably worth it.