WEST CARTHAGE, N.Y. (WWNY) - Seventy jobs could be in jeopardy at a West Carthage paper mill as it struggles to get paperwork approved by the federal government. It has to do with re-licensing its hydro-dam.
Ox Industries recycles waste paper products and makes box board, mat board and specialty paper.
To do it, the business uses power generated at a nearby hydro-dam it owns on the Black River.
It's time for the dam's license to be renewed - a process the mill says has cost Ox $300,000 with no end in sight.
"We don't know when these requests are going to end. It's kind of a Pandora's box that they keep opening up. So every time we think that we're satisfying something, 4 more things come down the pike," said Steve O'Donnell, Ox Industries general counsel.
The frustration led to Ox Industries penning a letter to federal and state officials (see below) calling the renewal process “broken” and the if the current process continues, there is a higher probability of the mill closing, though it doesn’t say higher than what.
O'Donnell said one contention Ox has is that "they're telling us basically we're going to have to rebuild the dam in order to use it and the dam is operating fine the way that it is."
In addition, Ox says it's being forced to do surveys and evaluations of fish moving upstream from Lake Ontario. The letter states the mill's dam in West Carthage is separated from Lake Ontario by no fewer than 12 man-made or natural barriers and studying this would be impossible, putting undue costs on the business.
"The fish studies, the hydraulics, everything else, we want to use that money to reinvest in the community and to create a safe work environment. We're talking millions of dollars that we're going to spend for compliance over the next few years that we want to pump back into that business," said O'Donnell.
West Carthage Mayor Scott Burto says the jobs at the mill are important and is hopeful the two sides can work it out.
"What they're being put through and asked to do is above and beyond what's happened over the past 50 years. That dam's been there. There's no environmental issues. There's been no issues with wildlife. I think for them to continue to operate as is as long as the engineering and the safety of the dam are appropriate. I think that's fair," he said.
We haven't heard from the federal or state agencies involved to ask about the fish studies, or why a new dam may need to be built.
Lastly, Ox points out the mill is a 100 percent recycling facility and is a good steward of the environment and will take steps to enhance operations at the dam, but right now those requests are over-burdensome.