by Hugh Johnson
ALBANY, NY: At our February Save the Pine Bush dinner, two speakers, Keith Schue and Ward Stone, spoke about how toxic pollutants continue to impact the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood in Albany and how it might get even worse.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) had planned to install a new Gas Power Plant in Downtown Albany at the old Sheridan plant, built in 1911, and still operates with steam from electricity derived from fracked gas shipped from nearby states.
Keith Schue lead the first talk discussing how not only is the governor and NYPA’s proposal a bad idea for downtown Albany, but how geothermal energy would be much better, cleaner and very renewable.
The residents living near Sheridan Hollow have been exposed to coal and oil since the plant was build. Then from 1981 to 1994, to add insult to injury, they were also exposed to horrible toxins from ANSWERS, which was a garbage incinerator plant. This old incinerator is where the two large turbines would be constructed, constantly working to produce gas to the Empire Plaza, about a half mile away. Carcinogens released from fracking include nitrogen oxide, benzine, formaldehyde, and methane. Nitrogen oxide reacts with sunshine to produce ozone. Methane traps heat even better than carbon dioxide, which of course means it will add to global warming and climate change. Methane is toxic to humans. If this isn’t bad enough, the noise from the turbines will produce noise pollution 24/7 too.
If the station is built and uses fracked gas, the Empire Plaza would rely 90 percent on fossil fuels for electricity, and 100 percent for heating. Also, the current backup system requires additional fossil fuels running ALL the time which add additional pollutants to the air.
Keith talked about another MUCH more renewable idea. Adding solar power paneling and wind turbines would help with the electricity and backup and, of course, are clean. However this solar and wind would not be enough to produce all the electricity, heating and cooling to run the Empire Plaza. He argued the best way to produce most of the energy would be with geothermal power, which would drive both the heating and cooling systems of the Empire State Plaza. The system does NOT use fossil heat or resistant heating and is more than 300 percent efficient since heating or cooling can be transferred without ANY additional energy. The Hudson River could provide ALL the water that is needed to pump heat and cooling through a capillary pumped loop (CPL). The latest technology of geothermal includes thermal load sharing. This process makes geothermal heat and cooling, completely renewable with no additional energy to move hot or cold water for heating. This technology was first introduced at Stamford University and is being utilized at the state capital buildings in Denver and Oklahoma City. It also being used at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.
Keith felt there is NO reason why it could not be done at the Empire Plaza. A “backup” system would be required for those times when the system for some reason did not work. A fossil fuel system could be available for a long term failure (which would be extremely unlikely), but for more frequent short term failures (like weather issues), backup batteries driven by solar and wind power should work fine for the Empire Plaza. The long term backup would not be running unless needed.
A letter was sent to Governor Cuomo last May from the Sheridan Alliance for Renewable Energy that Keith is a part of. This letter stated that adding the two turbines would be a bad idea and the geothermal and thermal load sharing heat-exchange would be preferable. The letter and many discussion with NYPA apparently resulted in the Governor not making a hasty decision to go with additional gas fired turbines. The New York Power Authority has conducted additional studies to see which would be the best way to heat and cool the Plaza and put out bids looking at the best design.
Keith concluded that there is hope that NYPA and Cuomo, who already approve of increasing solar and wind power as backup energy, could select geothermal energy as the main option to power the Empire Plaza.
Ward Stone, the retired long time wildlife pathologist for the state of New York (for over 45 years), spoke next. Recovering from health issues he was as passionate as ever. This was not his first talk for Save the Pine Bush. Despite being retired, he continues to fight against pollution, particularly lead that is found in many unexpected places, especially around Sheridan Hollow. Ward had talked to the former Albany mayor Corning about this problem. Ward was so persistent that his boss threaten to not only not promote him, but demote his position. Ward did not flinch, he continued to fight pollution.
He told a story about a time back around 1980, when he visited the ANSWERS station to find how much toxins the plant emitted. He went in the evening after work, knocked at the door and nobody answered. He helped himself inside the plant and tested the plant for lead and various other toxins. He found it in MANY places, much more than he imagined on all kind of surfaces. The white paint buildings surrounding the plant had turned black. He found lead where kids played basketball and took into their homes via their shoes. The pollution was so bad, it made the snow in Lincoln park turn black! Lead was even found in the soil and the plumbing.
Ward admitted he was often frustrated spending much time writing to and fighting with governors and commissioners than cleaning the environment.
He indicated scientific research has found not only does lead poisoning causes permanent brain damage to children but can lead to extremely aggressive behavior. Studies in Baltimore reveal the same idea. Lead might lead to violent crimes!
Ward bought cheap jewelry with his daughter (which was made in this area), and alas found lead in the jewelry that many children wear. The lead makes the jewelry very mendable and easy to sell even though it does not hold up well. The jewelries were making MONEY on it! They would extract medal from ballasts of car wheels for a low price which contain LEAD! He also pushed the idea of continuous testing for lead paint which remains in many buildings even though it has been banned for over 40 years. Young children like to eat lead paint since it tastes sweet like candy.
People are still dying from LEAD even though it has been outlawed in new construction for over 40 years. This is UNACCEPTABLE!
Ward has pushed the idea of having kids or even adults who committed violent crimes tested for lead, which is known to cause significant brain damage. He has set up for people to call him for tests via an X-ray machine.
In addition to lead, dioxin tetrodotoxin and of course methane were emitted from this plant and still are found everywhere and all are potentially lethal to humans.
Ward and others had to take their opponents to court. Ward said contacting the governor was not enough to shut the ANSWERS plant nor is it sufficient to battle the ongoing toxin problems in Sheridan Hollow. His opinion is that neither DEC nor the Health Department are doing enough to test this area and clean up the toxins around Sheridan Hollow.
Ward continues to fight to have the city clean up the toxins, namely lead. Soil, and other surfaces everywhere in every city need to be rechecked, then cleaned up to protect our youth. We need to fight this since our current president has reversed water and air quality regulations. We need to hold the slum lords and other owners responsible for this lead, and they need to clean it up. He said we should use “science” NOT politics to get the job done and vows to do MORE to clean the environment of lead for his next 80 years!
We as members of the “Save the Pine Bush” need to speak up to representatives, DEC and the Department of Health, stating NO FRACKING in New York and CLEAN up the toxic mess that still exists to this day in Sheridan Hollow.
Published in April/May 2019
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