VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — The New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) window for comments on air permits for a lithium-ion battery manufacturer looking to expand operations on the former IBM campus in Endicott is drawing to a close.
Imperium 3 New York, or IM3NY, announced earlier this year that it had secured funding to expand its manufacturing capacity at the Huron Campus, potentially bringing hundreds of new jobs to the area.
The move comes in the wake of a years-long dispute over preventing battery recycling company, SungEel, from setting up shop on the Huron Campus due to environmental concerns.
Opponents to the project secured a majority on the village board of trustees in elections last fall and moved to effectively block the project entirely. Endicott is still reeling from health effects related to IBM’s dumping in the village over several decades.
“The air permits have been submitted and are pending approval. We are all very proud of the work that has gone into the preparation to be able to make the applications and present, what will be, the cleanest and greenest Li-Ion manufacturing plant in the world,” Paul Stratton, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at IM3NY wrote to WSKG in a statement Wednesday.
“Our work complies with and exceeds all DEC defined and required standards. This is a project grown here by long time residents who have families here and like our neighbors and fellow residents expect the environment to be safe and green both now and for generations to come,” he added.
While environmental activists and other members of the Endicott community rallied against SungEel, IM3NY’s expansion plans and permit process have garnered less public scrutiny.
“I believe that the benefit, risk ratio is an order of magnitude better for IM3 than it was for SungEel,” Paul Connett, a retired chemistry professor said.
Connett was one of the principal members of a group formerly known as No Burn Broome, which organized opposition against the SungEel recycling plant. He was the object of much furor amid the discourse over SungEel and has been widely criticized for his less-conventional views of municipal water fluoridation.
Connett said No Burn Broome has changed its name and is refocusing toward bringing forward sustainable and innovative initiatives to Endicott.
“Everybody’s exhausted. Everybody’s suffering from pandemic exhaustion. We had one battle which was very debilitating. I don’t think they want another. I think all in all people don’t want this battle,” Connett said.
But upon review IM3NY’s draft air state facility permits, which the facility was required to apply for from the DEC, Connett said he has found a few concerns.
While he said the contaminants are far less concerning than those proposed to have been emitted by SungEel, he still worries about two: NMP and dimethyl ketone.
He said his primary concern lies with emissions from dimethyl ketone, better known as acetone. Under the DEC’s draft permits, the facility would be allowed to emit no more than 9.6 pounds of acetone per hour.
Connett said he is concerned because he does not believe there has been enough research into acetone’s effects on humans. He cited the fact that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), only recently published a profile of the chemical.
Connett said he will be submitting comment to the DEC to draw attention to the acetone and NMP contaminant levels specifically. Of the 31 air permits authorized by the DEC in the last year, none have included dimethyl ketone as a contaminant.
“I think they’ve done a very thorough job,” Endicott Mayor Linda Jackson told WSKG regarding IM3NY’s permitting process. “They’ve taken a long time to do this. I think they’re very, very careful. I think they have checked out everything they’re going to check out. I think this is going to be a terrific company.”
Jackson had been a proponent of the SungEel project and maintains that opposition to those plans were political. She said she thinks the recycling plant proposal attracted much of the ire, allowing IM3NY to proceed without much vocal opposition.
“Luckily that’s over and done with and in the meantime Imperium got to come in with people not paying attention because they were so focused on the other stuff,” Jackson said. “Actually, it worked out quite well.”
The draft permits are available for review on the DEC’s website, and comments can be submitted until Monday.