SI Group is investing upwards of $9 million in capital improvements this year at its Rotterdam Junction manufacturing plant, a frequent environmental offender.
The plant has racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines from the state Department of Environmental Conservation over the past decade for polluting the air and the Mohawk River in its backyard, and failing to provide required reports. As recently as March, SI was hit with a $75,000 fine from DEC for discharging untreated wastewater that contained phenol, a com-
pound that can cause severe burns, into the river.
“The net outcome will be cleaner air and move us toward our goal of zero emissions,” said SI Group President and CEO Frank Bozich in an interview earlier this month. “It’s putting new technology at the site that has better improved efficacy, and then also adding staff so that we can be more proactive at the site. We aspire to be an employer of choice in the region and we want to make the environment at that site one that attracts employees, and we’re working toward that.”
The global chemical manufacturer has headquarters in Niskayuna and runs a chemical manufacturing plant along the river in Rotterdam Junction, where employees manufacture compounds and resins that appear in everyday objects such as the grip handles on kitchen utensils or the brake pads in cars. The investments at the plant this year are about three times more than in an average year, with a focus almost exclusively on environmental health and safety.
Some of the improvements include process safety upgrades to SI Group’s mixing tanks, upgrades to its process cooling towers that would reduce energy consumption, packaging improvements that would reduce manual handling, and process safety improvements to increase the levels of protection for employees, the environment and plant infrastructure.
Since 2004, SI Group has been fined on multiple occasions for Clean Water Act violations and ordered to submit regular monitoring reports on its wastewater treatment facility at the plant. In the past three years alone, the company has been hit with five separate fines for air violations, improper wastewater discharges and lapses in reporting.
Bozich was hired away from chemical giant BASF last year to lead SI Group, which began as a small varnish manufacturer more than a century ago and today has 20 facilities in 14 countries. In addition to spending most of his first year on visits to those facilities, Bozich has been having regular conversations with DEC and SI Group Senior Vice President Paul Tilley, discussing ways to achieve zero emissions at the Rotterdam Junction facility.
“We’re disappointed to have been in a position to be fined by the DEC,” said Bozich. “I think the changes that we’ve made, these investments, are targeting being more proactive. We’re spending consistent with our vision for where we want to go.”
DEC confirmed the most recent meeting took place April 3.
“The meeting was an opportunity for the principals to meet informally and share information about facility operations and pollution prevention strategies,” said DEC Region 4 spokesman Rick Georgeson in an email. “It was a productive meeting.”