Chemical Plant Operations Cited As Danger To Elementary School

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a lawsuit that seeks to address potential environmental and public health problems near a Saratoga County elementary school.

The suit against Borden Chemical, Inc. and the Town of Moreau seeks to halt daily traffic of chemical trucks in front of the Moreau Elementary School. Spitzer's office alleges that 15 to 20 trucks carrying toxic chemicals pass by the school each day, creating a clear environmental hazard and violating a 1997 plant siting agreement.

"We should do everything we can to avoid the possibility of a problem near the school," Spitzer said. "In this case, the answer was already outlined in a previous agreement -- the company must use an alternative shipping route. We are simply seeking to have the company abide by that earlier agreement."

Spitzer's office was alerted to the traffic problem by concerned local residents. State investigators found that trucks that regularly drive past the school contain sulfuric acid, caustic soda, phenol, methanol, triethanolamine and methanol. Sulfuric acid is highly corrosive and flammable if mixed with water or organic materials. Phenol is a toxic chemical. Methanol, formaldehyde and triethanolamine are extremely flammable; methanol vapor mixed with air is explosive.

Spitzer's lawsuit claims that, in 1997, the Town of Moreau approved the siting of the chemical plant with the condition that the company prohibit its trucks from driving on the section of Bluebird Road in front of the school. As a condition of the environmental review and approval under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, this prohibition was binding on the town and the company.

Repeated efforts dating back to January 2000 to get the company to alter its shipping route have been unsuccessful. In addition, town officials have been reluctant to enforce the terms of the earlier agreement. As a result, Spitzer's office today filed a lawsuit in Saratoga County Supreme Court against the company and the town. The suit requests that the chemical company and town comply with the condition in the state environmental review by prohibiting chemical tanker truck traffic in front of the school.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Lisa Feiner and Norman Spiegel of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau.