Those of us who grew up in Niagara County in the 1980s saw firsthand the horrendous consequences of industrial irresponsibility. We watched the horrors of Love Canal unfold. We learned the word "dioxin," which is one of the most toxic of man-made chemicals, and we learned that the marvels of a modern age brought a very dangerous problem that we still haven't managed today. We still cannot rely on our many governmental agencies to mandate proper disposal methods for chemical waste.
In our haste to latch on to the newest of technologies, one essential component of that process is still being ignored. Due to a generous $50 million subsidy funded by the taxpayers of New York, the newest threat to the health and safety of our communities is the lack of recycling options for the millions of industrial solar panels hastily being installed throughout the farmlands of Niagara County. Thousands upon thousands of acres of industrial solar panels are poised to flood our county, and those panels contain a new toxin that another generation of our children will soon learn: Cadmium.
Cadmium is no longer allowed to be used throughout Europe's solar industry because this chemical is extremely dangerous to the human body. Yet American solar companies, with no oversight or regulation, are buying these panels and installing them wherever they can sign a lease. No entity of public trust, at the national or state level, is able to answer where these outdated solar panels will go once their 10- to 15 years of productivity are over. No governmental agency can answer the question of what to do when a slew of dangerous heavy metals is released into the ground, water and air in the event these solar panels are broken, catch fire, or are left to decompose in a field such as the abandoned solar complex on Transit Road in Newfane.
According to Kelly Pickerel in Solar Power World, "With no dedicated national program or requirement to safely dispose of solar panels, [they] unfortunately find their way to landfills."
A quick Google search will result in the realization that Niagara County, New York State and the United States have absolutely no plan in place to safely contend with the chemical waste that these solar panels are poised to contaminate our communities with. There is simply no proper disposal option available in the United States for outdated solar technology, and no one is mandating that one be created.
Lois Gibbs and the families of Love Canal had no idea their neighborhood was built upon a chemical dump. But we have no excuse today. We know what might be coming to the towns of Cambria, Barker, Newfane, to Lewiston, to Porter, to Wheatfield and Wilson. The question remains whether we are going to let another environmental crisis unfold for our kids.