Endicott lithium-ion battery plant to get another DEC review on toxic substance

By Jeff Platsky
June 3, 2020
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. Front page to page 8A.

The DEC has directed SungEel to address the disposal of PFAS, a potentially harmful chemical linked to diseases, reproductive issues and some cancers.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect SungEel’s response to the DEC’s request for information on PFAS in lithium-ion batteries. The response was released Thursday evening.

New York environmental regulators ordered the sponsor of a proposed Endicott lithium-ion battery recycling operation to provide greater detail on the handling of a toxic substance found in the units.

A letter from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to the president of SungEel MCC Americas directs the White Plains-based company to address the disposal of PFAS contained in the batteries.

The chemicals, known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), have drawn increasing scrutiny and public alarm over the past few years. Used widely for decades in non-stick pans, stain-resistant clothing, food packaging and firefighting foams, PFAS have more recently been linked to toxic effects such as immunodeficiencies, reproductive issues and some cancers.

In the most glaring example of PFAS pollution, the chemical was found in the Hoosick Falls water supply in 2014, and was suspected of causing cancer and other maladies in the New York’s Hudson River community. Installation of extensive filtration equipment was required in the community’s water system. The pollution was traced back to plastics factories that made products such as Teflon.

Late Thursday, SungEel representatives attempted to play down the hazards from PFAS contained within the batteries.

“We strongly believe that testing will confirm that any PFAS compounds contained in batteries recycled at our facility will be destroyed at levels of concern in our afterburner,” Danish Mir, SungEel president said in a letter to environmental monitors.

DEC personnel said it recently learned that PFAS is one of many elements contained in lithium-ion batteries, raising concerns not previously addressed in the regulatory review.

“There is evidence that any PFAS compounds present in the batteries could result in PFAS emissions,” the DEC wrote in a two-page letter dated May 20, 2020.

DEC engineers have asked SungEel to provide data on PFAS emissions that may occur before and after the recycling process.

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