A Small Town and the Effects of Air Pollution

Gas power plant controversy in New York could repeat itself all over the country.

| Fall 2015

  • The CPV gas power plant's total VOC emissions annually are 140 tons, more than twice the local limit. On an average day, the plant would emit a volume of VOCs that could fill a large barn. Above, a gas compressor station near Rhome, Texas.
    Photo by Flickr/Jeremy Buckingham

Community fears about toxic emissions from the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) gas power plant planned for Wawayanda, New York, have not troubled town supervisor John Razzano. He expressed skepticism about reports of adverse health effects among residents near the Minisink gas compressor seven miles away.

The compressor releases just a fraction of the same emissions the plant would produce. One Minisink family, unable to sell their house, abandoned it. Others sold at a loss, fearing the health implications of symptoms that appeared when the compressor began operation.

“People often oppose projects,” said Razzano, “but we hired environmental consultants, and the Department of Environmental Conservation issued a permit.”

He points to the $1 million a year the plant would pay in school taxes and the $100 million construction payroll that would result from building the plant.

But Pramilla Malick, of Minisink, founder of Protect Orange County, says only 25 jobs would remain in the area, and construction workers would come from elsewhere. She is also concerned by the impending acquisition of CPV by foreign investors, Global Infrastructure Partners II.  While ownership becomes more distant, health hazards are local.

 Malick cites the work of environmental health expert David Brown, who has documented symptom patterns among Minisink residents. Brown, at 78, is a veteran in the world of environmental health, having been Connecticut Chief of Environmental Epidemiology and Occupational Health and an investigator of Superfund sites for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Employing a doctor to survey residents, Brown found that common Minisink ailments mirror what another environmental health expert, Wilma Subra, has found around the country, not only near gas compressor stations, but also gas power plants and gas drilling sites.

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