When the Town of Huntington’s planning board first approved the construction of the Northport power plant in 1964, records show that it required that the facility regularly submit emission reports to town authorities for review.
Its concerns centered on protecting the community’s health and well-being.
At a press conference Friday at Northport’s soccer field and boat launch, with the plant’s four stacks looming overhead, town officials said that the utility has failed to fulfill that obligation. They are sounding the alarms along with State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and demanding that LIPA submit reports to comply.
“We need to know if the Northport power plant’s emissions are a factor in the
alarmingly increased cancer risk in the Northport-East Northport community,” said Council member Eugene Cook.
Earlier this week, New York State Department of Health said it identified elevated levels of cancer, primarily leukemia, in young adults, all graduates of the Northport High School Class of 2016. The health department is expanding its investigation to identify geographic patterns of young adults in the community diagnosed with blood cancers over time.
Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci is reviewing whether or not the town still has legal oversight authority for emissions. Meanwhile, he said the state needs to take action.
Cook, along with Council members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol will introduce and pass a motion to address the topic Feb. 11 at the town’s next board meeting to ensure that LIPA fulfills its obligations.
But LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan said in an email interview that National Grid, and not LIPA, is responsible for controlling and reporting emissions.
National Grid said it is required to report air emissions to the federal and state regulatory agencies and consistently files on both a quarterly and annual basis. VOC emissions are reported annually to the NYSDEC.
“We are also pleased to hear the State Department of Health is investigating a possible connection between the Northport Power Plant and environmental issues found in the area surrounding the plant, including the area in the vicinity of Northport Middle School,” Lupinacci said.
Gaughran said he is outraged at the situation.
“It is shocking that a state public authority [LIPA] doesn’t even understand the authority that they have,” he said in an email response. “LIPA is the successor to LILCO, and they have the ultimate responsibility to act. It’s shameful they don’t even understand their basic legal obligation to the people they’re supposed to serve.”
According to the State Department of Environmental Conservation Permit Review reports from Feb. 2019, the Northport power plant is in severe emission violations for ozone compounds, which includes hazardous Volatile Organic Compounds.National Grid said it is unaware of any current regulatory citations from the state.
The DEC states that 90 percent of the plant’s VOC emissions in 2018 were mainly butane, pentane and propane. That same year, according to the DEC, it also emitted 50 lbs. of benzene. Exposure to these chemicals can cause headaches, drowsiness, rapid heart rate and in some cases cancer.
With the closure of the Northport Middle School this week, community members and officials on multiple levels of government are on high alert and taking action to better protect the public.
National Grid believes that there is no connection between the power plant operations and the issue at the Northport Middle School.
The DEC said that it is currently re-evaluating its enforcement response to certain emission exceedances at major facilities in the Long Island region to better ensure the continued to protection of the public health and the environment.