Today’s news:

State, city promise short leash for Red Hook concrete plant

State and city officials are vowing to keep a close watch on a concrete plant once it opens in Red Hook — but those hoping for an environmental assessment before that day should expect to be disappointed.

Critics of the arrival of United States Concrete’s facility to 640 Columbia Street are urging the city and the state to conduct air quality testing to determine if the plant’s arrival is even suitable for the site, which stands near neighborhood ballfields and an organic farm.

“At a minimum they should take air samples at the site, and if and when the facility actually opens they should then compare those samples with samples taken after,” said John McGettrick, co-chair of the Red Hook Civic Association.The waterfront locale should be a red flag, McGettrick continued. “I don’t think people appreciate the wind coming off the water, which will eventually spread the cement dust into areas where people play and to the organic farm,” he said.

According to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the plant will require an industrial process permit for each type of processing equipment, such as ventilation or exhaust machines, that will be employed. The equipment that has a permit is inspected when it is ready to go into use and then it is inspected every 3 years in order to renew the permit. The company also has to ensure that the piles of sand and dirt on site are sufficiently covered or sprayed with water.

“Although the particles that sometimes become airborne are heavy and tend to fall out of the airstream quickly, if we find that they are not taking enough precautions we can issue them a violation,” according to Michael Saucier, a DEP spokesperson.Another option, he added, is to “cure” the issue and work with the facility to employ additional measures, such as the use of a sweeper machine.“We will monitor closely and actively,” Saucier said. The company has yet to file any application materials with the DEP,he said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) does not have any statutory or permitting authority for the concrete plant. But if the plant’s operations cause an air pollution nuisance, DEC could investigate complaints and, if warranted, enforce those concerns under nuisance provisions, according to agency spokesperson Maureen Wren.

For local residents like Lou Sones, that’s just not good enough. “This has a tremendous potential — and most cement factories do — for harming the health of the people that use the fields and the farm.” Sones suggested that Community Board 6, of which he is a member, pass a motion urging the respective agencies to safeguard the environment, even though the project is allowed to proceed as of right, meaning it is permissible under the site’s manufacturing zoning. At its Nov. 10 general meeting, the board said the matter will likely be taken up at the committee level. “The use may be as of right, but the pollution it causes is not,” noted Richard Bashner, chair of Board 6.

The plant will be operated by Eastern Concrete Materials, a subsidiary of Texas-based US Concrete, a publicly traded firm. Over the summer, Michael Gentoso regional vice president with US Concrete told this paper that the Red Hook plant would closely control dust, adhering to stringent safety requirements.According to fact sheet distributed by the company, the plant will operate a 24-hour business, adjusted by customer and traffic patterns in Brooklyn and Manhattan. An estimated 15-25 concrete trucks a day are expected to rumble along routes on Columbia and Bay Streets.

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