Attorney General James Holds Albany-Area Cement Plant Accountable for Years of Water Pollution
Holcim Agrees to Pay $850,000 Penalty, Including $212,000 to Reduce Hudson River Pollution
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today reached an agreement to resolve a joint state and federal action against Holcim Inc. a cement plant based in Ravena, New York that leaked toxic pollutants into tributaries of the Hudson River for years. The agreement, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, requires Holcim to implement measures to prevent future violations and pay a $850,000 civil penalty, half of which will go to New York state. A portion of this payment will be used to fund a project designed to reduce the flow of pollution into the Hudson River.
“For years, Holcim failed to live up to its legal responsibilities, repeatedly violating laws established to ensure the health of our waters,” said Attorney General James. “Today, we hold this company accountable for polluting our natural resources and we ensure that proper measures are taken to remediate the harm caused to our communities. My office will continue to aggressively enforce the laws that protect the health and safety of our environment and of all New Yorkers.”
“New York state has a long history of holding polluters accountable for their impacts both on our communities and the environment, and I thank the U.S. Attorney and the New York Attorney General for their efforts to finalize this agreement that does just that,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The consent decree announced today will help to resolve years of violations and exceedances under federal and state rules and regulations and requires a significant penalty of $850,000. And, in addition to requiring actions to further clean up its operations, this agreement requires this facility to invest in an Environmental Benefit Project that will help improve the health of the Hudson River — a victory for the town of Coeymans.”
“We are all custodians of our community’s precious environmental resources. This settlement will benefit the Hudson River, and help preserve this treasured resource for future generations,” said Acting U.S Attorney for the Northern District of New York Antoinette T. Bacon.
“This settlement helps protect clean water and ecosystems in the Hudson Valley for local communities and it has already improved Holcim’s compliance with critical federal and state environmental laws,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator for Region 2 Walter Mugdan. “This case exemplifies EPA’s commitment to work with our federal and state partners to ensure entities like Holcim comply with regulations that protect public health and the environment.”
Holcim’s Ravena Cement Plant, which was owned and operated by Lafarge Building Materials, Inc. until July 2015, includes a cement kiln dust landfill used as part of the facility’s cement-making process. For years, this landfill operation has discharged significant amounts of untreated and partially-treated contaminated water and stormwater into Coeymans Creek, which connects to the Hudson River. The facility’s treatment system routinely discharged contaminated water exceeding various pollution control permit limits, including aluminum, toxicity, oil, and grease.
Despite a series of administrative actions by both the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the facility continued to report exceedances of its DEC water pollution control permit in violation of federal and state water pollution laws. Over 260 permit exceedances were reported between April 2015 and March 2019, although compliance improved later in 2019 and continued in 2020.
The agreement announced today addresses Holcim’s pollution discharges and places the company on a path to full environmental compliance, under strict oversight of regulatory agencies. Among other things, the agreement requires Holcim to:
- Fully comply with its water pollution control permit;
- Implement updated water pollution “Best Management Practices” and “Operation and Maintenance” plans;
- Conduct, through a qualified third-party auditor, a facility-wide water pollution and solid waste compliance audit, and implement all action items identified by the audit;
- Submit to DEC a revised solid waste management facility permit that addresses revised regulatory requirements; and
- Pay $850,000 in civil penalty, half to the state of New York and half to the federal government.
Of the penalty obtained by the state, $212,000 will be used as seed money for an innovative “green” stormwater infrastructure project at Coeymans Landing Park. This project, which uses natural structures and processes to remove pollution from stormwater, will be designed, engineered, and constructed to reduce harmful runoff into the Hudson River.
Additionally, during the course of negotiations over this agreement, Holcim implemented significant upgrades to its wastewater management systems, including a multi-million dollar upgrade to the contaminated water collection system at the landfill that has dramatically reduced the frequency and severity of its water pollution control permit exceedances.
Attorney General James thanks DEC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, and EPA for their assistance in this matter.
This matter is being handled by Attorney General James by Assistant Attorney General Joseph M. Kowalczyk, under the supervision of Affirmative Section Chief Morgan A. Costello and Environmental Protection Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy. For DEC, the matter was handled by Region 4 Regional Attorney and Acting Director, Anthony Luisi.