Environmental groups in New York are protesting an extrusion site that will make PVC fence, deck and railing.
CertainTeed Corp., based in Valley Forge, Pa., selected waterfront property in Buffalo for a 250,000-square-foot extrusion site scheduled to open in the fourth quarter. The facility will replace an extrusion plant in nearby Cheektowaga, N.Y.
But a coalition of 30 environmental groups is protesting the project, including the Citizens Environmental Coalition; Advocates for Environmental Human Rights; Center for Health, Environment and Justice; the Green Party of Erie County; and the Learning Sustainability Campaign.
CertainTeed will be the first corporate citizen in an area known as Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park.
``Why are we cleaning up a brownfield and bringing in a company like CertainTeed?'' said Mike Schade, Western New York director of the Citizens Environmental Coalition. ``It seems like we're taking 20 steps back with bringing in a company like CertainTeed. No environmental permits have been issued for that plant. They don't have environmental permits for the Cheektowaga facility. We would like to see CertainTeed phase out use of PVC in their products.''
Schade said he and other environmentalists traveled to Lake Charles, La., where CertainTeed has a PVC resin production site. Schade's group claims CertainTeed was fined $25,000 and cited by the Department of Environmental Quality 17 times between 1999 and 2003, for problems reporting and monitoring pollution.
``We are dismayed that millions of dollars in taxpayer funding is going towards the CertainTeed PVC project, yet neither the city nor the county have hosted any public meetings or hearings regarding the proposed PVC [extrusion] plant,'' Schade said. ``This type of development does not represent our vision for the Buffalo waterfront. The waterfront should be for families, not PVC factories.''
But CertainTeed officials said environmental permits are not required for the Buffalo facility or the site in Cheektowaga, and the company will not stop using PVC.
``The majority of the citations we received related to paperwork violations,'' said Dottie Wackerman, CertainTeed's vice president of communications, responding to the violations at the Lake Charles plant. ``We accepted full responsibility and paid the fines.''
Similarly, CertainTeed cited a ``State of the Environment'' study for southwest Louisiana. As part of that study, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry determined blood dioxin levels of residents in Calcasieu Parish were similar to other parts of the nation, including nonindustrialized areas.
The Vinyl Institute of Arlington, Va., has recognized CertainTeed's Lake Charles operation for 13 consecutive years as one of the industry's top environmental and safety performers. According to the Vinyl Institute, those awards are based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants.
``I think it's unbelievable that the environmental impact is being questioned here,'' Wackerman said of the Buffalo and Cheektowaga sites. ``These are good, safe products with many benefits to the consumer. No environmental permits are required. It's unbelievable. It has an excellent track record. We actually are relocating a plant that has been in operation since 1979. The environmental impacts are minimal. There are no harmful emissions into water, soil or air. The releases to environment are so insignificant. This is a very environmentally friendly plant.''
CertainTeed has been in communication with the groups, she said. ``We have actually called them and spoken to them about the facility to make sure that they understood what the environmental impacts were and that they are insignificant. We have made it very clear what this facility is,'' she said. ``They had written us a letter and we responded to that.''
For now, the protesting has had no effect on the plant's progression. ``We're still geared up for CertainTeed to open by December,'' said Peter Cammarata, spokesman for the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.