CTS Testing for Toxins at Syracuse Plant

Posted June 2, 2015 at 2:24 pm

Coyne Textile Services (CTS), Syracuse, NY, recently determined the presence of hazardous chemicals on the site of its headquarters plant, and the company is now seeking to determine if wastes have moved beyond that property and into surrounding areas, according to news reports and an interview with Alex Pobedinsky, general counsel and vice president of CTS.

The Syracuse Common Council on May 26 granted CTS permission to drill four monitoring wells along the sidewalk on South Clinton Street in order to conduct tests in an area west of the plant. Company officials and state regulators feel the risk to drinking water supplies from the waste is low because residents are served by city water pipes. However, if chemicals such as tetrachloroethylene have moved off-site, it’s possible that they could create airborne hazards in nearby buildings, the report said.

Pobedinsky said CTS took the lead last fall to identify any possible “legacy” sources of dry-cleaning chemicals that the company stopped using in 2000. They doubt that any chemicals have moved beyond the plant, but they wanted to run down any potential risks, he said. “That’s our next step,” Pobedinsky said. “The only thing I would say is that we are the ones doing that. Not the state. Not a regulatory agency. We on our own wanted to ensure that we had fully delineated the extent of any potential contamination. There’s no evidence of it off-site, but we want to make absolutely sure.”

Pobedinsky credited recently named CEO Mark Samson for taking a proactive stance on compliance with OSHA and other agency requirements. “The real story here is that Mark, having come on board as the new CEO, has been extremely proactive with ensuring that there is 100% compliance in all areas,” he said. “So we immediately started doing this in conjunction with our board and lender, who wanted confirmation from us that everything was on the up and up – particularly with the management change here.” Likewise, Samson credits Pobedinsky and the engineering team with their support and compliance initiatives.   

CTS’ board of directors named Samson interim CEO in June 2014, and made his position full-time on April 1. Samson has an apparel-manufacturing background, having served on the board of the Berden Group of South Africa, which produces 125,000 garments per day and employed 3,000 people. Samson also chaired the Audit Committee and was a lead independent director of a NYSE company and one of America’s largest clothing manufacturers with 6,000 employees based in Los Angeles and another 4,000 at 280 retail stores worldwide. Samson’s commitment to compliance includes working closely with regulators. He has advised more than 100 companies in the U.S. on good business practices.

Not surprisingly, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has played a key role throughout the process of looking for and cleaning up any industrial wastes found at CTS, Pobedinsky said. He noted that when CTS first discovered a small amount of chemical contamination on-site in 2014, the company brought the issue to the agency’s attention. “From there, we on our own, set up a meeting with the Area 7 DEC here in Syracuse and pushed them to move forward, put a work plan together, get an application together,” he said. “At first they were shocked because usually it’s the other way around. And so they’ve given us their 100% support and at this time it’s really a matter of we’re just trying to get all of our final pieces put together through the Brownfield Cleanup Program.”

The testing hasn’t disrupted production at the plant, nor is there any expectation that it will affect normal operations, Pobedinsky said. Meanwhile, CTS has hired an environmental consulting firm to conduct additional tests in the company’s facility at 140 Cortland St. Results from these tests aren’t yet available. Tetrachloroethylene is a chemical formerly used in dry-cleaning operations, and it can pose health problems, the report said.

Pobedinsky added that CTS previously ordered air-monitoring tests earlier this year that have confirmed that plant employees are at no risk from chemical wastes. “On our own, we routinely do indoor air testing, just to confirm that any potential exposure levels are within OSHA parameters,” Pobedinsky said. The test results confirmed that any compounds were either “no detect” or well below levels mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

“They’ve done everything by the book,” said Thomas Bohlen, a project manager from the GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc., the consulting firm working with CTS on the company’s response to the cleanup. “They’ve been completely transparent with all regulatory agencies.”

CTS’ ultimate goal is to complete the cleanup, obtain whatever credits may be available from the DEC, and receive a “certificate of completion” that will release the company from further liability, Pobedinsky said. Click here to learn more. 

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