Attorney General James and DEC Commissioner Seggos Take Action to Stop Harmful Emissions from Norlite Facility

Lawsuit Against Norlite, LLC Alleges Emissions from Cohoes Facility Endanger
Health and Wellbeing of Surrounding Community, Violate Multiple State Laws

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today filed a lawsuit against Norlite, LLC (Norlite) to force the company to stop polluting the air with contaminants from its Cohoes facility. Norlite, a Tradebe subsidiary, has a history of environmental violations and has previously been subject to multiple enforcement actions and penalties from DEC, including orders to cease and desist further violations. Recent air quality monitoring conducted by the state found the facility is emitting contaminants at levels that increase the risk to the health and wellbeing of the surrounding community. In the complaint filed today, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and DEC allege Norlite has failed to protect the health and safety of neighboring residents and mitigate air pollution-causing emissions.

“Pollution from the Norlite plant has put the health and welfare of those living in its shadow in danger,” said Attorney General James. “Despite this unrelenting harm, Norlite has consistently refused to take the appropriate measures necessary to control emissions and protect neighboring families. With today’s filing, Commissioner Seggos and I are taking action to protect the surrounding community by demanding an end to this flagrant noncompliance. Everyone should be able to open their windows and spend time outside without fear — we are committed to ending Norlite’s dangerous pollution and restoring safe, clean air to the neighborhoods that have suffered.”

“Norlite’s operations repeatedly demonstrate a willful disregard for New York state law and the health of the Cohoes community,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “DEC’s comprehensive data collection and scientific evidence of Norlite’s harmful off-site impacts, along with the facility’s ongoing noncompliance with required actions to protect local residents and the environment resulted in this major legal action, and I commend Attorney General James and DEC’s experts for working together to bring justice to this community.”

Norlite is an aggregate manufacturing and hazardous waste incineration facility located at 628 South Saratoga Street in the city of Cohoes, roughly 100 feet away from Saratoga Sites Apartments — a 70-unit public housing complex that as of May 2022 was home to approximately 150 residents. An estimated total of 660 people live within a half-mile of the facility; 32 percent are people of color.

Industrial operations at Norlite generate an estimated 56 tons of dust per year, which migrates into the surrounding community and pollutes the air, endangering residents’ health. This “fugitive dust” has been found to contain microscopic particles and crystalline silica, which when inhaled at elevated concentration can increase the risk for lung, heart, and nervous system diseases in sensitive individuals. Exposure to crystalline silica presents a public health concern as it is linked to Silicosis and lung cancer in industrial settings. 

DEC conducted an intensive monitoring program at the facility in 2021 and 2022, which determined that levels of particulate matter and crystalline silica in the air in the community surrounding Norlite exceed levels established to protect against harmful health impacts. The monitoring also confirmed Norlite to be the primary cause of the elevated levels of particulate matter and crystalline silica in the local community’s air. 

In addition to suffering harmful emissions, residents of Saratoga Sites Apartments have been forced to limit time outside, keep windows and doors closed, and invest in air conditioning units and fans due to the excessive “fugitive dust” from the facility.

The lawsuit includes numerous environmental violations issued by DEC for operations up to September 12, 2022. DEC’s enforcement actions include multiple consent orders and penalties against Norlite dating back to 1990, and New York state will continue to closely monitor the facility, collect additional data, and hold the facility accountable for any and all violations that occur during this legal process.

This matter is being handled for OAG by Assistant Attorneys General Joseph Kowalczyk, Nick Buttino, and Christine Donovan Bub, Affirmative Litigation Section Chief Morgan Costello, and Environmental Scientist D Pei Wu, all under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek and Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic of the Environmental Protection Bureau. Investigators Edward Conlan, Clint DuMoulin, and Rocio Villa, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Harry Czosnykowski and Civil Investigations Deputy Chief Jon Wood, also provided critical assistance. The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. The Division for Social Justice and the Investigations Division are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

Regional Attorney Victoria Ruglis is representing DEC in this matter with lead technical support from Regional Air Pollution Control Engineer Benjamin Potter and Regional Engineer Victoria Schmitt, under supervision of Regional Director Anthony Luisi.