The Town of Ulster two weeks ago affirmed its intent to declare lead agency in the environmental review process of a proposed Niagara Bottling facility off Boice’s Lane, not far from the Lower Esopus Creek. During a public comment session following the town board’s agenda at its Oct. 16 meeting, councilmen heard from both supporters and opponents of the project.
Among those speaking in favor of it was former town supervisor Fred Wadnola.
“I support the Niagara Bottling facility for several reasons,” Wadnola said. “The revenue stream that will be generated will help the City of Kingston. They are in dire need at this point in time and we’re under the understanding that the taxes are going to be raised considerably because of the things that have to be done to the water system there. This facility also is going to create jobs, and we haven’t had a manufacturing facility here for quite a few years … We need to generate jobs for the residents of this area.”
The proposal includes the construction of a 414,800-square-foot plant at an estimated cost of $53 million. The facility would reportedly open with a single production line of 41 jobs, expanding to 120 jobs after the facility is fully operational. A reported 50 total truck trips would occur when the facility is first up and running, with around 260 trips when completed.
City of Kingston Alderman Brad Will expressed concern over the economic environment the Niagara Bottling plant would bring to the community.
“Economically speaking, this plant would create less than one percent of the jobs of the IBM [facility,] about three-quarters of 1 percent,” Will said. “The wages and salaries it would produce would be about 1.5 percent of what IBM paid in its heyday. Those are not high-paying jobs.”
Will also expressed concern about a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement being negotiated for the facility, especially as it pertained to money that could be going to the Kingston City School District. Town Supervisor James E. Quigley III said that recent history should prove that not all PILOTs are cut and dry.
“To reassure you, when the Town of Ulster approved the PILOT for the Mid-Hudson Medical Group building, the Kingston school district got about $250,000 in year one because we negotiated a deviated PILOT and that building is now the largest square foot taxpayer in an office building in the Town of Ulster,” Quigley said. “We take our responsibilities very seriously.”
Opposition to the project also included environmental concerns. Once fully operational, Niagara Bottling be disposing of around 345,000 gallons per day of wastewater, 2,500 gallons of which would be sent through the Town of Ulster Wastewater Treatment Plant, with the remainder flowing into the Lower Esopus Creek. While some opponents expressed concern about the possible toxicity of the water going into the Esopus, Quigley compared the process of both the City of Kingston and Niagara Bottling to the Mr. Coffee home coffee maker.
“The water comes from the city of Kingston, they run it through a filter, they put it in the bottles,” Quigley said. “Once a day they reverse the flow of the water to clean the filters. Now they just ran clean water through the filters all day long and we all know that the City of Kingston has the best water going and there’s nothing in it, but they still filter it because that’s their process. So they [Niagara Bottling] reverse the flow, they clean the filters, and that’s what is going into the creek.”
But Will took exception to the comparison, noting a $30,000 fine levied against a Niagara Bottling facility in California in 2008.
“I do know that the state of California Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a manifold notice of non-compliance to a Niagara plant that alleged Niagara Bottling had violated California water code by allowing discharge of pollutants to waters of the United States without filing a report of waste discharge,” Will said. They found that there were about 144,000 gallons per day being discharged into the Cucamonga Creek … I’m going to assume that the regional water quality control board was concerned because it wasn’t the same as running water through a coffee filter.”
Olivebridge resident Henrietta Wise also said she was concerned about the environmental impact.
“The corporation makes its own plastic bottles, which are in their fluid state toxic and also in their disposable state toxic, and the effluvia, the waste, will be dumped into the Esopus Creek,” Wise said, adding that a shaky economy isn’t a good enough reason to ignore environmental issues. “Times are hard, and at such times predatory businesses roam, and this is a known fact … This corporation is wooing the Town of Ulster with the promise of a few low-paying jobs. The Town of Ulster is wooing Niagara with the promise of building without taxation for 10 years, plus other perks.”
Supervisor Quigley and the other members of the Town Board also expanded the list of involved agencies to 14 and the list of interested agencies to 10. Of the former, numerous town, county, and state departments are included, as well as the City of Kingston Water Board; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Region 3; the state Department of Health; and the Ulster County Industrial Development Agency. Among the interested agencies are numerous surrounding municipalities, the Ulster County Planning Board, Ulster County Community College, and the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
But while the DEC is listed as an involved agency, Woodstock Land Conservancy Chairman Kevin Smith backed a request by Riverkeeper, a Westchester County-based environmental group, to have the state agency take the lead role rather than the town.
“The impact of the actions are likely to be regional or statewide rather than primarily local,” Smith said. “I think that fits the case. This runs from the Beaverkill, the watershed for the City of Kingston water supply, Cooper Lake, the Sawkill, affecting the town of Woodstock, Town of Kingston, City of Kingston, all of the agencies that you mentioned, including New York City potentially because the Beaverkill does drain into the Ashokan. Which agency has the greatest capability for providing the most thorough environmental assessment of the proposed action? I’d agree with Riverkeeper’s position that would be DEC in this case.”
Clayton Van Kleeck spoke in support of the project early in the meeting.
“I would encourage you to look at this in a manner of how can we make this happen and be good for our community,” he said. “We need the business; we need an influx of people. I don’t want to sacrifice the community for this. Let’s do this right, let’s get this done right so it can have a long life and a beneficial contribution to our community.”