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With a public hearing set, some Fort Edward neighbors worry about plastics plant proposal

With a public hearing set, some Fort Edward neighbors worry about plastics plant proposal


FORT EDWARD — For more than four decades, Julie Wilson has lived on East Street, raising her family and growing flowers.

Her son, James, built his home across the way, and they enjoy the quiet of Fort Edward’s woodlands. On Nov. 19, a buck leaped across the snow in their backyards.

The Wilsons are worried about their futures here, with a Texas-based plastic pipe company eyeing the neighboring property. The Wilsons live on the southern boundary of the former General Electric Co. dewatering site, and already have bad tastes in their mouths from that experience.

But the Hudson River sediment processing site, used for the cleanup of one of the country’s biggest Superfund sites, was at least temporary.

Learning that they might have new neighbors through reading the newspaper, the Wilsons feel that local elected officials have not been transparent and have not had residents in mind. They’re concerned about the possible pollution coming from the plant and what the noise, odors and traffic might be like.

“We feel disregarded,” Julie said. “It’s like, are we non-people?”

Their neighbor, Darleen Lundgren, feels the same. Sitting around Julie’s kitchen table, the three talked about their anger, hurt and their experience living in the shadow of a Superfund site.

Lundgren was so upset about WL Plastics Corp.’s proposal to move next door, she was shaking as she talked.

Julie said she was in tears.

Meanwhile, town and county government officials have said the plastics company’s move is a win, bringing jobs, tax revenue and economic development to a neighborhood in dire need.

The Warren-Washington Industrial Development Agency will have a major part to play in whether WL Plastics comes to Fort Edward, as it will vote on whether to give the company sales tax breaks and a payment in lieu of taxes agreement at a special meeting on Wednesday.

The Wilsons plan to be at the public hearing prior to the IDA’s vote.

Once a Superfund site

When Julie and her late husband retired, they opened their gardens to the public and sold field-grown perennials. The business was called Fannicap Gardens.

Julie’s son, James, built his house next door in 1988. At that time, they were surrounded by a few neighbors and cornfields.

“Once the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and General Electric decided on that site, when they started the site work, it was just a living hell,” James said. “The dust, it looked like west Texas here. It was that bad. Sitting here, you couldn’t even see my house.”

Even after the industrial park was built and the dredging began, the noise, dust and light continued to disturb East Street residents. James said they operated six days per week, but his family was at least glad for communication.

Behan Communications, a public relations firm that represents GE, had a hotline to call, and James and Julie said an EPA spokesperson would often stop by and give them updates.

“For the most part, they were very transparent with us about everything, and they tried to intervene to make it as humanly acceptable as they could and still get the job done,” Julie said.

But now they feel transparency has clouded.

New neighbors

The Wilsons feel blindsided by town officials.

Town Supervisor Terry Middleton, who was not re-elected for next year, read a statement before the Town Board in November about how a number of organizations and politicians were involved in getting WL Plastics to consider Fort Edward.

He even listed “neighboring property owners” as being involved, which James read in the newspaper.

“They were never informed,” James said, of “neighboring property owners.”

“They might have involved their neighbors that have property in the industrial park over there, but they never invited us, the residents who live here,” he said.

Neal Orsini, a Town Board member and the president of the Fort Edward Local Property Development Corp. that currently owns the former dewatering site, had also said that information had to be kept from the public because interested companies needed to keep it secret from their competitors.

But Lundgren and the Wilsons feel that secret has directly impacted them.

Julie would have liked an elected official or delegate to come to her door and notify her of meetings and what was going on.

The Wilsons were counting on the property to be returned to the farmland it once was.

“This is my home,” Julie said. “My husband’s footprints are all over this property. I want to live here. I want to live the rest of my life here, and so does my son.”

Environmental questions

Lundgren and the Wilsons are also concerned with the environmental impacts a plastics company could have on their neighborhood.

Mike Dahl, a representative from WL Plastics, presented some information before the Warren-Washington Industrial Development Agency on Nov. 18.

Dahl said the emissions from their current plants are low, about 2 tons of volatile organic compounds per year. A typical passenger vehicle emits more. The plant recycles the water used in the plastic pipe-making process, too, so there’s no wastewater treatment except for what will be needed to accommodate bathroom facilities.

WL Plastics is also not listed under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s toxic release inventory, which means its emissions are not great enough to be monitored by the federal government.

It is not yet clear if the company will need an air emissions permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Those permits consider all emissions from a work site, including from vehicles.

David Fink, senior vice president of WL Plastics, did not return Post-Star emails seeking comment on Nov. 25, Nov. 26 or Dec. 2.

Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.


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