Norlite is reimagining the future in Cohoes

COHOES, NY (NEWS10) – A controversial facility in Cohoes has furloughed more than two dozen employees. Norlite processes slate into a porous ceramic material and has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years due to environmental concerns.

Norlite announced the layoffs Monday as the company said it is reevaluating its Cohoes operations.

According to a statement from the company, Norlite is temporarily suspending its core operations while attempting to reduce its inventory and repair its equipment.

“Norlite has truly been under the microscope over the last four years like never before in its 60-year history,” said Cohoes Mayor William Keeler.

He said residents had complained about Norlite for decades and that the Departments of Environmental Protection and Health had increased scrutiny of the company since he took office.

“My goal over the last four years has been to make Norlite a better neighbor, and in that regard they have taken significant steps over the last four years to accomplish just that,” Keeler said.

The DEC has cracked down on the company, particularly over concerns about air quality from blown dust. Mark Belokopitsky lives across the street from Norlite and said he knows a handful of people in the neighborhood who have breathing problems.

“I didn’t really notice it myself, but I have family that lives down the street and my sister-in-law had lung problems and died a few years ago,” Belokopitsky said.

In a statement, Norlite addressed those concerns, saying it was a “…report examined, prepared and completed by the state Department of Health that shows no evidence of health concerns from operations at Norlite.”

Keeler reiterated that statement, saying there was no incriminating evidence directly linking Norlite to health problems in the area.

News that Norlite is temporarily closing and reassessing the scope of its operations has some Cohoes residents worried.

The company has sponsored activities for seniors in the area. Gail Williams and Shiela Sunkes live in a retirement home and have grown fond of the company’s social outreach efforts.

“Norlite has been really great for us here. They do a lot for Cohoes and the various senior buildings, which I think is great,” Sunkes said.

Williams worried that the furloughs and reevaluation could potentially cause the company to leave the area.

“Well, that would be the end of our support system, one of our support systems,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, the company thanked its 28 “…dedicated employees who may be forced to find other work during this temporary closure, and we look forward to bringing them back to the facility in the near future.”

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