Read the full article by Sharon Lerner (The Intercept)

“INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS known as PFAS have contaminated soil and water near an incinerator in upstate New York that has been burning firefighting foam. The facility is run by Norlite, whose parent company Tradebe contracted with the Department of Defense to burn the foam known as AFFF, as The Intercept reported in January 2019.

The analysis of three soil and four water samples collected near the Norlite incinerator in Cohoes, New York, which appears to be the first environmental testing done near an AFFF incineration site, revealed the presence of 10 PFAS compounds that have been associated with the foam. The levels of the chemicals in soil and water declined with distance from the plant, and measurements of PFOS, a compound that has been widely used in firefighting foam, were twice as high downwind from the facility than upwind of it, according to David Bond, a professor of environmental studies at Bennington College, who conducted the testing with some of his students.

‘All of this provides a strong indication of airborne deposition of PFAS from ineffective incineration of AFFF at the Norlite facility,’ said Bond.

Despite evidence that burning the firefighting foam posed health risks, the military  has turned to incineration of as a way of disposing of millions of gallons of AFFF in recent years. The foam, which has been used for decades to put out jet fuel fires, long contained both PFOA and PFOS, as The Intercept reported in 2015. Widespread use of the foam that contained these extremely persistent chemicals, which are associated with kidney cancer, testicular cancer, and many other health problems, resulted in contamination of drinking water across the country. In 2016, the Department of Defense decided to stop using PFOS and PFOA in AFFF, but continued using a newer formulation of the foam that contains closely related compounds in the same class.

States, localities, and fire departments, which have used AFFF made to military specifications for decades, have also begun to send their excess foam to incinerators. At a press conference yesterday, Cohoes Mayor William Keeler said that 25 states have been sending AFFF to the Norlite facility. The hope is that the foam could be safely incinerated at extremely high temperatures. But the testing done near the Norlite incinerator, which is less than 200 meters from a public housing complex that is home to more than 70 families, suggests otherwise.

‘Far from destroying PFAS, the Norlite plant appears to be raining down a witches’ brew of PFAS compounds on the poor and working class neighborhoods of Cohoes,’ said Bond.

Although, in a 2017 request for proposals, the Air Force made it clear that it believed “no satisfactory disposal method has been identified” for AFFF and that its incineration may not fully destroy PFAS in the foam and may create dangerous byproducts, the Defense Department in November 2018 entered into two contracts with Tradebe, which is based in Indiana, to incinerate more than 1 million gallons of stockpiled foam that had been collected from the Army, Navy, National Guard, and Marine installations in Italy, Spain, Bahrain, Greece, Romania, Japan, Korea, Cuba, and Djibouti…”