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Neighbors oppose Wawayanda gas plant; Health concerns top the list

Dave Brown, environmental consultant at Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, says that even in the middle of New York City, people are not subjected to the magnitude of spikes in particulate matter, nor the volume of toxic chemicals generated by the Minisink compressor. The CPV power plant would emit more of both.
TRR photo by Jessica Cohen

By JESSICA COHEN
July 31, 2015

WAWAYANDA, NY — Community fears about toxic emissions from the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) gas power plant planned for Wawayanda, NY, 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.

Subra typically finds symptoms such as asthma, allergies, coughs, nosebleeds, dizziness, weakness and rashes among 90% of residents and workers in a two- to three-mile radius of gas infrastructure. Symptoms are “more frequent and severe” around power plants, Subra says. Resulting chronic ailments she cites include lung, cardiovascular, reproductive, liver, kidney, and neurological damage; birth defects and leukemia.

“People have memory loss and confusion and trouble picking things up,” Subra says. “Babies are born missing fingers and toes.”