Fluoride Action Network

Lithium-ion Battery Recycling: The proposal in Endicott, NY, 2020-2021

Part 1: Archive of NoBurnBroome on their successful opposition to a lithium-ion battery recycling incineration scheme proposed for Endicott, Broome County, NY, between 2020-2021 | By Ellen Connett

This is a photo of where an incinerator to recycle lithium-ion batteries in Endicott NY was proposed. Does this community like an industrial area to you?

Status of the Project: successfully defeated on February 1, 2021, mainly due to the hard work of the residents of Endicott, Broome County, NY.

Note: This series concerns a proposal to use incineration to recycle lithium-ion batteries. It was proposed for Endicott in Broome County NY. The proposal resulted in the formation of the group NoBurnBroome on April 15, 2020, to oppose the proposal, which it successfully accomplished in February 2021. The Fluoride Action Network was interested in this project because the novel use of incineration to recoup valuable metals would be a new, and non-assessed, exposure route to large amounts of hydrogen fluoride. Index to the series is here.

The Proposal:

SungEel, a joint South Korean and American company, proposed to operate a lithium-ion battery recycling plant at 801 Clark Street in Endicott with a battery storage facility located nearby in South Franklin Street. The proposal was to use high-temperature incineration in the recycling process which would have run 12 hours a day, 5 days a week to process 1 ton of batteries per hour. The use of incineration in the recycling process was to capture the expensive metals (cobalt, nickel, and more) in the fly ash. The ash would be sent to South Korea for further processing. The Air Permit that the state issued to SungEel on March 30, 2020, noted that at least four known human carcinogens would be emitted, as well as other toxics. NoBurnBroome’s science group discovered that this project would release PFAS (the toxic forever chemicals) and that they weren’t included in the Air Permit. Upon confirming this, the state put the Air Permit on hold in May. There was near-unanimous opposition to this toxic polluting venture. The state was prepared to invest $1.75 million in SungEel to set up in Endicott, a town that had been victimized by industry for many decades. The last industry was IBM, which had a huge workforce in Endicott. IBM dumped enormous amounts of Trichloroethylene (TCE) into the ground and established the village as one of the largest known examples of vapor intrusion, a phenomenon in which volatile chemicals creep from far underground into the air of buildings above (mainly family homes).

The Victory

On February 1, 2021, the controversial recycling law, passed on May 7, 2020, which would have allowed incineration in the recycling of lithium-ion batteries, was rescinded by Endicott’s Board of Trustees. 113 people tuned in to the Zoom hearing with 41 out of 42 people speaking for rescinding the law called, A Local Law Prohibiting Recycling Facilities in Industrial Zones.

The recycling law that was rescinded:

• Contained no protections for the health and the environment of Endicott residents.
• Was written exclusively for the benefit of SungEel, the owner of the proposed recycling operation for lithium-ion batteries in Endicott.
• Allowed the use of incineration for SungEel’s processes to recover precious metals, while releasing known carcinogens into the air (see Air Permit of March 30, 2020).
• Left the community a magnet for other industries, like SungEel, who want to use incineration in their recycling processes to set up shop in Endicott.

See Letters in Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton NY)

Feb 7: Never give up: Mission accomplished in Endicott. By Olwen Searles.
Feb 7: How opponents turned back SungEel project. By Paul and Ellen Connett.
Feb 7: Democracy triumphs in Endicott. By Rita Foran.

See News Coverage:

Feb 3: Some Endicott residents call for Mayor Linda Jackson to resignBinghamton Homepage
Feb 2: Residents and leaders react to Endicott’s decision to rescind recycling law. WBNG-TV
Feb 2: Battery recycling facility will not come to Endicott, mayor says. WBNG-TV
Feb 2: Endicott mayor denies inappropriate behavior during Monday’s public hearing. WBNG-TV
Feb 1: Village of Endicott trustees vote to rescind controversial recycling law. WBNG-TV
Feb 1: The Village of Endicott Holds Another Public Hearing in an Attempt to RescindFox 40 News