Dan Hust | Democrat
YUKIGUNI'S ATTORNEY, CHARLES Bazydlo, briefly talked about his client’s proposed mushroom factory in Wurtsboro on Wednesday. At right, Sullivan County Partnership Board member Lew Klugman joined other Partnership members in advocating for the DEC to immediately grant the approvals necessary to begin construction of the Yukiguni mushroom plant.
Yukiguni faces critics
By Dan Hust
WURTSBORO Out of 40 speakers at Wednesday’s public hearing in Wurtsboro, 28 asked the state not to immediately approve a proposed mushroom plant off Route 209.
The Yukiguni Maitake Manufacturing Corporation of America (YMMCA) has been working for much of the past decade to site a 260,000-square-foot, 64-foot-high maitake mushroom growing/processing facility on McDonald Road just north of Wurtsboro. (A pilot plant would first be built on the 48 acres and would be around 46,000 square feet and 37 feet high.)
The permitting process has been lengthened by litigation, and even though Yukiguni has won in court and modified its plans to cut down on water usage and other environmental impacts Wednesday’s three-hour public hearing by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) showed the battle is not over yet.
The DEC, in fact, had not planned to hold such a hearing, having considered Yukiguni’s documentation complete in April. But concerns from the Basha Kill Area Association (BKAA), Audubon New York and the Friends of the Shawangunks accompanied by technical reviews from their hydrogeological experts led DEC Region 3 Director Willie Janeway to call for a relatively rare “legislative” public hearing, one he personally oversaw Wednesday.
The hearing concerned two SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits Yukiguni is seeking so as to discharge sanitary and process wastewater during construction and operation of the pilot plant.
About a dozen speakers voiced support for the project, and most of them were members and leaders of area unions and Sullivan County business trade groups. They argued that Yukiguni has satisfied all the DEC’s requirements and deserves the permits.
“There have been nuclear plants that have gotten approvals in less time,” remarked former Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development President Marc Baez.
The bulk of the speakers in opposition comprised mostly local residents and leaders of area environmental organizations, along with their scientific consultants.
In fact, the only Town of Mamakating resident who spoke in favor of Yukiguni’s plan was Wurtsboro resident Morris Smith, who lives about 1,000 feet away from the factory site.
“This town needs jobs,” he remarked, a comment echoed by virtually every other pro-approval speaker.
Smith, who has voiced issues with the BKAA for many years, added, “The BKAA never met a business it liked.… They’ve chased many businesses out of the area.”
Smith likened the Bashakill wetlands, which the BKAA is charged by the DEC to protect, with simply being “a swamp” that is in need of better management.
BKAA leaders and members, however, argued that the DEC is the one not taking the factory’s potential threats against the Bashakill seriously enough.
“We still have some serious doubts about whether the basin can handle this flow,” BKAA consulting engineer Andrew Willingham told Janeway, referencing Yukiguni’s plan to discharge into an infiltration basin a maximum of about 340,000 gallons per day of groundwater used in the mushroom growing process.
Two stormwater basins have been included in the design at the DEC’s request, though they’ll discharge into a nearby wetlands bounded by the 180-year-old remains of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, which the county indicated may become an issue.
Speakers worried that the current and proposed berms in the area might not sufficiently hold water in intense storms, while others worried that the water table may rise to an unhealthy level for local vegetation and wildlife.
Several residents were highly concerned about their wells possibly going dry due to the amounts of groundwater proposed to be used at the plant.
Criticism was also levelled at the DEC for not yet releasing new studies and documents concerning Yukiguni’s proposal, and calls were made to show those documents, hold another hearing and perhaps even have an administrative law judge conduct a court hearing where expert testimony is given (similar to what has happened with the county landfill expansion permit process).
Even County Legislator and Wurtsboro resident Kathy LaBuda stepped up to the podium to ask for such.
“[Yukiguni’s plant] has the potential to create huge amounts of stormwater,” she worried.
County Legislature Chair Jonathan Rouis, also a Mamakating resident, attended the meeting but chose not to speak. He plans on sending his written comments to the DEC this week. Neither did Yukiguni CEO Kaz Kameyama, though his attorney and engineer both gave brief overviews of the project, reiterating their desire to move ahead.
Comments will continue to be accepted in written format through July 27. They can be mailed to Alexander Ciesluk Jr., NYSDEC Region 3, 21 South Putt Corners Road, New Paltz, NY 12561.
Janeway said the DEC will make a decision in the weeks thereafter either to approve the SPDES permits or to hold another public or administrative hearing.
If the permits are approved, Yukiguni will only need a water withdrawal permit from the Delaware River Basin Commission to commence construction of the pilot plant.
Further permits will be needed from the state if and when the main plant is built.