Brindisi, Schumer Call on EPA to Inspect Utica-area for Hazards Following Charlestown Fire
Congressman Anthony Brindisi and Senator Charles Schumer are calling on the EPA to immediately visit the area following Thursday's massive fire at the abandoned Charlestown Mall that straddle's the Utica-Frankfort line.
They're calling for what an On-Scene Coordinator to identify possible environmental and public health threats, which could allow local municipalities access to the EPA's Emergency Response Fund. That fund, the Reps say, is equipped to help with the financial burden posed by those possible hazards.
Brindisi and Schumer's comments below were included a press release calling on the EPA to visit the area to assess the potential danger:
“This isn’t the first time fires at CharlesTown mall have burdened emergency responders in Oneida and Herkimer counties, but after this latest one, it is clear that the potential environmental and public health issues the abandoned mall poses, must be addressed,” said Senator Schumer. “The structure is a century old and because of its age, there may be unknown hazardous substances released due to the damage. As they did with the Glory Days building in Herkimer in 2016, the EPA can act immediately to stave off any potential of another crisis here in the Mohawk Valley.”
“After our brave first-responders stepped up and fought this fire, it is time for the EPA to step in and make sure there is not lasting damage to our communities after this crisis,” Congressman Brindisi said. “The aging building and potentially hazardous chemicals present a real threat to our communities. Our region has seen its fair share of catastrophic fires and we need the resources and boots on the ground to assess and prevent further damage. The safety of our communities depend on it.”
At its peak, the massive fire had nearly all of the sprawling property engulfed in flames. It took hours for firefighters from several departments to bring it under control, as it spewed huge plumes of black smoke into the air - smoke which was visibly lingering in the air in Frankfort, Utica, and surrounding communities well into the evening Thursday.
The two representatives also said while it is fortunate that no lives were lost, they hope that doesn't prevent the EPA from prioritizing the fire in regards to the potentially hazardous substances that may still be emitted from the smoldering site.
Some four decades ago, Charlestown Mall was the preeminent outlet mall in New York State. However, the property appears mostly abandoned and in recent years has been home to squatters, believed to be responsible for smaller fires throughout the multi-story complex.
What sparked the fire in the early morning hours of Thursday's fire is still under investigation.