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Rochester Regional Group News

Latest News - From our Chairperson, Linda Isaacson Fedele:

Dear Sierra Club Members & Friends,

It’s a long one, folks.  Enjoy.  Even better, let it sink in and result in action, too.  ;-)

2) CLEANING UP KODAK’S EASTMAN BUSINESS PARK (formerly known as “Kodak Park”)

I’m back from a very interesting trip to India.  In between visiting Hindu temples in the eastern part of Tamil Nadu, it was impossible not to notice the garbage everywhere.  Turns out that except for in the major cities (and maybe even in some of those), there is no garbage collection.  No system at all for dealing with garbage.  None.  So it’s everywhere, especially on road-sides and in open fields.  And yet, the Indian people are the ultimate recyclers.  Huh?
It was explained to us that their non-handling of what we call “garbage” actually worked extremely well for many centuries.  Whatever they didn’t need, folks would put “outside” and it would eventually go away, harmlessly:  Other people would pick through it for what they needed, animals (those roaming cows and dogs, among others) would eat whatever they could scrounge, and the rest would decompose.  That is, until the introduction of plastic in India, which did not happen in any large way until around the 1980s-1990s.  Now, there is plastic everywhere—bottles and other containers, plastic tarps, etc.  It’s inescapable.
In contrast, our streets, highways, open space, and residential areas here at home look pristine.  So, so much easier on the eyes, and on the heart, too.  (Looking at so much garbage was just plain depressing.)  So I was glad to get home, and back into my comfort zone.  But, the reality is that thanks to our garbage collection system, we “recycle” way less.  Less gets re-used, less gets eaten by those lower on the food chain.  Our garbage is out of sight, out of mind.  As India gets literally buried in plastic, our land-fills grow and grow.
See this City Newspaper article, Trash Talk, regarding expansion of the Riga landfill.  Yes, our landfill solution does work for us.  But what percentage of what is getting land-filled COULD be re-used or allowed to decay in a way that doesn’t create methane as a by-product (as land-fills do)?  Is there any way we could begin to approach the re-use/recycle rate of the Indian people, and then also cut back drastically on plastic use?  It’s a whole new way of thinking about garbage.

2) CLEANING UP KODAK’S EASTMAN BUSINESS PARK (formerly known as “Kodak Park”)
As part of its bankruptcy settlement, Kodak is trying to rid itself of liability for past Genesee River pollution by relegating responsibility to an independent organization endowed with a trust fund of $49 million.  If this plan goes through, state (the DEC) and federal (the EPA) environmental agencies give up their right to sue Kodak over contamination.  The EPA is objecting to this plan, saying that $49 million is likely not enough for the cleanup.  There has also been no determination of who would pick up any costs in excess of the $49 million, though Senator Chuck Schumer is working on some “deal” that would make the state pay for some, and then possibly turn the responsibility back to Kodak once some upper threshold is reached.
Please call and/or write to Gov. Cuomo, Senator Schumer, and Louise Slaughter (contact info way below) if you agree with the EPA’s assessment that $49 million is likely not sufficient to address the level of contamination, and if you are concerned that the very agencies who oversee such cleanups (the EPA and the NYS DEC) would waive their rights to sue, if this settlement goes through.

More info:
Dem & Chronicle article of July 17, 2013
WXXI article of July 26 on Schumer’s “Deal” to fund the cleanup

And, here are some details on Kodak’s history of contamination, from the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ) based in Falls Church, VA:
History of Air and Water Pollution
Kodak was New York State's number one polluter, according to the federal Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). Over the years Kodak reported releasing tens of millions of pounds of methylene chloride, a carcinogen, into Rochester's air and water.   For instance, Kodak reported releasing approximately 9.6 million pounds of carcinogens in 1987, when they were first required to report their emissions under the TRI program.  By even 2000, Kodak continued to report releasing over one million pounds of carcinogens.  According to a national report published by the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), "Zip code 14652 in Rochester, New York led all zip codes for emissions of cancer-causing chemicals from 1987 to 2000. Of the 64.4 million pounds of carcinogens released over that period, more than 58 million pounds were air releases of dichloromethane by the Eastman Kodak Co. In addition, Eastman Kodak's Kodak Park facility in Rochester ranked among the top 100 facilities nationwide for TRI releases of dioxin in 2000"

Surface and Groundwater Pollution
For decades, Kodak discharged methylene chloride, dioxins and furans, heavy metals such as silver and other hazardous pollutants into the Genesee River, which today has still never been fully characterized nor remediated.  For example, Kodak helped contribute to the Genesee River's dubious recognition as having received the greatest amount of toxic pollution of any water body in New York State between 1990 and 1994.    The Hudson River came in second, having received about 1 million pounds less pollution than the Genesee.  During that time period, Kodak discharged more carcinogens, persistent toxic metals, and the greatest amount of toxic chemicals that cause reproductive damage or birth defects into New York's waters than any other business in New York State.  These emissions in some cases were later found to be under-reported.  For two years in a row, Kodak under-reported their releases of nitrate compounds into the Genesee River by 503,000 pounds in 1995 and 1996.  For 1996, instead of reporting 350,000 pounds, Kodak reported 80,000.  For 1995, they reported of 67,000 pounds discharged, instead of the correct 300,000 pounds.

 After decades of operations and releases at Kodak Park, soil and groundwater became severely contaminated with methylene chloride and other pollutants, which led to New York State adding numerous sites at Kodak Park to the state Superfund program.  Kodak Park had and likely continues to have 31 miles of underground industrial sewage pipes; many carried hazardous waste and contributed to groundwater and soil contamination at Kodak Park.   According to the EPA, "investigations conducted by Kodak indicate soils on site have been contaminated with metals, as well as volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Ground water is contaminated primarily with volatile organic compounds, although other constituents have also been detected at elevated concentrations. Contaminated ground water in the shallow flow zones is generally contained on-site. Limited off-site migration of contamination in deeper bedrock ground water has been previously identified adjacent to several areas of Kodak Park."

Health Problems at Kodak Park
Over the years, Kodak Park neighbors and workers complained of cancer and other health problems that they believed may have been attributed to pollution from Kodak.  The New York State Department of Health found that women living near Kodak Park had approximately an 80 percent greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer which is often fatal. That rate increased to 96 percent among women who lived in the Kodak Park area for at least 20 years.  Some parents were also concerned about a childhood cancer cluster near Kodak, which led a to a $75 million lawsuit against Kodak. 

Contact Info:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
(518) 474-8390

US Senator Charles Schumer
Kenneth B. Keating Federal Office Building
100 State Street, Room 3040
Rochester, NY 14614
Phone: 585-263-5866

Rep. Louise Slaughter
3120 Federal Building
100 State Street
Rochester, NY 14614
Phone: (585) 232-4850

Thanks, everyone!
-Linda Isaacson Fedele
Chairperson, Sierra Club – Rochester Regional Group


Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club

Rochester Group in the News:

Hugh Mitchell Receives The Nature Conservancy “Friend of the Land” Award

Hugh Mitchell getting the awardFor many years, Hugh Mitchell worked to preserve the rare and beautiful Hemlock/Canadice Lakes Areas.

His efforts were recognized by the Central & Western NY Nature Conservancy by the award of a plaque which reads, “In recognition of your role in permanently protecting the Hemlock/Canadice Lakes.”

Although the City of Rochester had done a good job over 135 years protecting the Upland Watershed of these reservoir lakes, because of budget shortages they were anxious to sell the 7,200 acres to New York State. This transfer was accomplished in June 2010 after more than 30 years of effort to permanently protect the land.

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