Saratoga County

New law eyed over spills at Momentive site

Town officials plan to consider a local law because of repeated toxic spills at Momentive Perform

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Town officials plan to consider a local law because of repeated toxic spills at Momentive Performance Materials. Officials say the company isn’t doing a good enough job reporting them to the town.

The new law would outline what types of spills have to be reported, to whom the spills have to be reported and how soon the town has to be notified. It would also set penalties if a company failed to comply with the law.

The law would cover all companies in Waterford, but Momentive is by far the largest.

“Over the last 90 days or so, we’ve had about a half a dozen incidents [at Momentive] where these discharges were either reported late or not reported at all,” Supervisor Jack Lawler said at a Town Board meeting Tuesday. “The amount of the discharge is immaterial. When there’s a discharge of a hazardous substance, town authorities have to be notified.”

Lawler cited a recent spill on the morning of Dec. 25 that was not reported to the town or the state Department of Environmental Conservation until Dec. 28.

According to the DEC, that spill was 4 gallons of unknown petroleum that was caused by a machine failure.

“Momentive definitely agrees that there should be very close coordination between the town emergency response officials and any facilities at which a spill of hazardous materials occurs,” said Raymond Hiley, a lawyer with Momentive who attended Tuesday’s meeting. “We will review very carefully the proposed local ordinance.”

“We look forward to working closely with town officials to resolve any concerns the town has regarding Momentive’s facility and any spills that might occur there,” he added.

The local law will be prepared by Town Attorney Craig Crist and presented to the Town Board at its next meeting in early February. The town will then hold a public hearing and possibly consider the law at its meeting in early March.

“The state has a lot of mandatory notification laws,” Crist said. “We’re going to look at those laws. We’re going to look at what other communities have done. This is for public safety purposes.”

Momentive purchased the plant on Hudson River Road from General Electric in 2006. The company is the world’s second-largest producer of silicones and silicone derivatives with about 1,000 employees at the Waterford plant.

Lawler said that a local law like this was not necessary in the past because General Electric did a better job notifying the town of spills.

“The plant has been here a long time,” Lawler said. “We understand that accidents are going to happen. We’re not asking for perfection.”

Hudson River Road was closed for about 30 minutes in November when Momentive accidentally spilled 250 pounds of hydrochloric acid.

Officials determined that there was no danger to residents as a result of that spill, but Waterford Police Commissioner John Tanchak said that it took Momentive 15 minutes to inform his police officers and said that was “15 minutes too long.”

“What concerns me is that when it happens, we have to know about it. We have to know about it very quickly, and at this point that’s not happening,” Lawler said. “Those people who are responding as emergency service responders, they have a right to know what they’re going into.”

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