John Wolcott Versus The Dump

Skewering An Inane Document

By John Wolcott

Editor's Note: Save the Pine Bush board member and dedicated enemy of deception John Wolcott has provided a blow by blow commentary on the "Summary of the 2nd Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Extension of the Albany Interim Landfill". This is the legal paperwork required before the City of Albany can start throwing trash and toxic waste into the depression between the two big piles of garbage at the Albany Dump. The dump, sometimes called Mount Trashmore, is now the point of highest elevation in the Pine Bush. Part of it is the personal creation of former DEC Commissioner Thomas Jorling, and sits on top of what used to be the largest Karner Blue Butterfly habitat in New York State. Gone forever.

Save the Pine Bush spent years fighting the expansion of the dump, and while we eventually lost, the State had to make a number of concessions ("mitigation measures") such as putting aside money for purchase of preserve land, which is a very good thing, finding another place to dump the garbage before December of 1992, which would certainly have been a good thing, and the creation of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, which may or may not be a good thing.
Let Mr. Wolcott take us on a tour through the wonders of scheming bureaucratese. The numbers refer to sections of the DEIS document:

4.51 Habitat Considerations

"The landfill property lies immediately east of the main body of the preserve and west of the Rensselaer Lake section. Karner Blue populations do not currently populate either area."

John replies: Karner Blues were found in the area west of the City Dump until last year. This used to be our main area for Karner Blue Butterfly hikes every year for the past 18 years. What happened to them? Until it is determined what caused the disappearance of the butterflies from this section, and whether or not the disappearance was caused by the landfill, I don't think that the landfill should be added to.

4.5.3 Recreation

"The highest elevations of the Albany Interim Landfill (AIL) and the General Albany Landfill (GAL) (the official names for the two trash piles -Ed.) are visible from only a select few locations within this section of the preserve."

John replies: This remark minimizes what is really a horrendous impact by Mt. Trashmore and it's satellite the AIL on hikers. One of these so called "select few" locations is the lookout dune where virtually all visitors to this section of the Pine Bush go on the main trail leading from the entrance of the city preserve. Another main trail is the old Centre House Road. This comes abruptly up to the northside of the mass of Mt. Trashmore where the original rest of the road disappears. A main trail now leads northeasterly from there. This too comes abruptly up against the newer AIL trashpile and has been cut off. Many hikers follow these routes, or try to.

4.5.2 Preserve Management Guidelines

"Regular explosive gas monitoring will be conducted."

John replies: Why? The fact that this has to be done admits to the danger of methane explosions. Since methane leaks out laterally, some explosions could, potentially, affect the proposed new section and its liner.

4.7 Whitestone Village

"The only homes within a reasonable distance of the site are in the Whitestone Village."

John replies: It should not mean that the residents of this trailer park are less important just because theirs are the only nearby homes.

There currently appears to be a practice of making available daily air monitoring readings to the tenants. Doesn't this admit that the landfill per se, and any addition thereto or extension thereof, could be dangerous to the health of the Whitestone residents?

Let's see now! Daily air monitoring readings. Regular explosive gas monitoring. Would any of you city or state bureaucrats out there want to buy property and live any place where these two things were being done? No? I didn't think so.

4.7.1 Bad Odors

(This section admits to bad odors emanating from the dump.)

John replies: If I were a Whitestone resident, rather than be furnished with daily dangers reports I would want the state and city to pay for moving my trailer to a better, and less smelly location. Such a move should be nearby, or wherever the residents want. If this were done, then the trailer park land could be publicly purchased along with the field to the west of it and added to the Pine Bush preserve.
This would be a real mitigation measure. The field to the west is already being naturally reseeded with pitch pine trees, and these acquisitions would help reconnect the isolated Rensselaer Lake section with the rest of the preserve. Everything else between there and the lake is marked "full protection" on the Pine Bush Commission's "vision" map.

This proposal would cost a lot of money to implement, but the City of Albany and the State of New York owe a lot for having placed a dump on one of the most sanguine natural areas in the country, right on top of the historic King's Highway. Choosing this site for a landfill was just plain dumb.

We are all fed up with broken promises made year after year that the dump will be closed. These landfill extensions look as though they will go on forever, and Mt. Trashmore just keeps growing. It is already the largest man-made feature anywhere along the NYS Thruway. It is very possible that existing preserve land may soon be undesignated by legislative decree to be used for future extensions of the dump.
We are losing patience over this issue, and the City of Albany and the State of New York are quickly losing their remaining credibility.


Printed October, November, 1996


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