Clearwater’s Role in Opposing New Heavy Industry along the Hudson River in Coeymans, NY
Twelve miles south of Albany is the Hamlet of Coeymans, one of the earliest Dutch settlements on the Hudson River. It faces Schodack Island which held the last Council fire of the Mahican Indians and is now a State Park with nesting bald eagles. The Hamlet is bracketed by two Hudson tributaries, the Coeymans and Hannacroix Creeks, together they are a ‘significant coastal habitat’. Endangered sturgeon breed in this stretch of the Hudson River.
In 2006, Carver Laraway opened the Port of Coeymans just north of the Hamlet. His businesses have expanded with unseemly haste. They include staging for the Tappan Zee Bridge project, the Coeymans Recycling Company, Coeymans Industrial Park, and a number of tenant industries. No environmental impact assessment was ever conducted for these projects or their cumulative effect.
This expansion accelerated after 2013 when local Town authorities were pressured to rezone residential and agricultural land along the Coeymans Creek for heavy industrial use. Local community members fought the zoning change, and won by court order in March of 2014. However, the Industrial Park and its associates kept the pressure on, and in May of 2014, local authorities passed a different zoning change to permit the industrial expansion.
Clearwater supported the efforts of residents to prevent these massive industrial changes to their community by participating in another legal challenge over the proposed zoning change and the Industrial Park’s failure to conduct an environmental impact assessment. Although our collective financial resources were insufficient to withstand the 3–4 years of legal delays brought on by the industry, in 2017 we won several important concessions in a settlement with the Industrial Park and its associates. The Industrial Park was required to make several infrastructure improvements to the Park to reroute and mitigate water pollution — and was also required to move one of its tenants farther from the Creek.
In spite of these important victories, the Industrial Park has continued to expand with limited or no environmental oversight. Over 500 acres close to the Hudson River, a local elementary school, and local homes have now become a major industrial complex. In 2015, the Capital Region’s 2015 Upstate Revitalization Initiative Plan proposed expanding the Ports of Albany and Coeymans with their links to rail, road, and river to create a new ‘gateway’ for business. While the Port of Coeymans was granted $2 million to investigate building a new rail link to the Port in 2015, no further news of these plans has been published. In the meantime, the Port has proven to be a bad neighbor. Local residents complain of extreme noise at night while heavy trucks are cracking the windows of homes along Routes 143 and 144. The Port continues to block any comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments, accepting only segmented studies of particular projects. Impacts on the Hudson River, its tributaries, and the local community have been ignored.
To address this problem, in 2019 Clearwater successfully applied for an $18,000 grant from the Rose Foundation to conduct an environmental assessment of Coeymans Creek. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the health of Coeymans Creek and the impact of the Industrial Park on its health so far. With this funding, Clearwater hired Jeremy Dietrich, a research scientist affiliated with the Cornell University Department of Natural Resources. He performed a scientific assessment of Coeymans Creek upstream and downstream of the Coeymans Industrial Park, sampled the Park’s stormwater outfalls where they enter the Creek, and conducted a survey of benthic invertebrates (an important indicator of ecosystem health).
The study revealed several concerns. First, the study found that this important ecosystem is naturally fragile, due to the composition of the streambed. Second, it found a significant difference in the biological profile downstream from the Industrial Park as compared to upstream—showing the industrialization is already damaging the Creek. Third, it found several industrial pollutants in the Park’s stormwater outfalls where they enter the Creek. Clearwater is now considering taking legal action for this pollution. The study in its entirety can be found in the links below.
Since 2014, Clearwater has helped local residents oppose this industrialization. Though Clearwater continues to support local residents through legal and scientific action, we must all continue to pressure our local, state, and federal officials to conduct a proper Environmental Impact Assessment of the Industrial Park and the Port of Coeymans to ensure this unchecked industrial growth will not further damage the Coeymans Creek and the Significant Coastal Habitats of the Hudson River to which it leads.
Please join Clearwater in backing this call for a comprehensive environmental impact study of current and future industrialization in Coeymans.
The Hudson River has been recovering for fifty years.
New industry without environmental care could destroy that recovery.
- Pete Lopez, EPA Regional Administrator Lopez.Peter@epa.gov 212-637-5000
- Basil Seggos, Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Basil.Seggos@dec.ny.gov 518-402-8545
For more information, please read:
2020 Coeymans Creek Study by Jeremy Dietrich:
2016 Coeymans Report