by Tom Ellis
RENSSELAER, NY: Rensselaer and East Greenbush (R&EG) residents continue organizing to close the Waste Connections (WC) Dunn construction and demolition debris dump. The overarching issue is the dump is sited in a major population area and thus affects many people. It is located next to the Rensselaer public school campus and in between R&EG neighborhoods. Tractor trailers–sometimes in convoys–traverse downtown Rensselaer streets every weekday from 6:30 a.m. until late afternoon, ruining the health and quality of life for many residents.
The Rensselaer Environmental Coalition (REC), of which I am a member, held a community meeting on May 19 attended by more than 100, in-person and virtually. REC updated attendees about ongoing dump pollution and the latest developments, and provided information about how to give oral and written comments during the permit renewal process, including at the upcoming June 14 Waste Connections Environmental Justice meeting and future DEC (NYS Department of Environmental Conservation) public comment period and hearings.
Waste Connections applied to DEC in January for a dump permit renewal. DEC determined the application to be incomplete, WC resubmitted, and DEC replied in late March that the application remained incomplete.
WC is attempting to limit DEC’s permit review to one issue: a berm WC hopes to construct between the dump and the school.
This is problematic for many reasons:
- WC may try to ignore all other concerns raised by dump opponents at its June 14 environmental justice meeting and later.
- Several times in recent years, DEC officials, including the commissioner, wrote or said, DEC would treat any renewal application as a new application.
- In 2012 when DEC approved the initial dump application (the dump opened in January 2015), DEC committed regulatory malpractice. DEC allowed WC to review the public comments submitted in opposition to the dump; DEC apparently never reviewed the WC responses for completeness and accuracy. DEC then issued the dump permit based on the deceptively flawed WC analysis.
- One example of this is that WC denied that the dump would be sited right next to a brand new school even though this was a major concern raised by the public. DEC accepted this incredibly important misrepresentation and licensed the dump.
- The point here is that the original dump approval was massively fraudulent in that many of the important issues (school proximity, tractor trailer truck traffic, diesel exhaust, noise, dust, dirt, air pollution) were neglected by both WC and DEC. If WC can get away with insisting that the only difference between the 2012 and 2022 applications is the berm, then all the critically important environmental, health, and quality of life issues that were never examined in 2012 would remain unexamined by DEC again, facilitating a wrongful relicensing.
- In 2003, DEC rejected a thorough $40 million cleanup of the BASF industrial manufacturing site south of downtown Rensselaer, and allowed BASF a $7 million partial cleanup. DEC justified this saying the costlier and better cleanup would cause too much truck traffic, noise and congestion in Rensselaer. Nine years later, DEC “forgot” its concerns about noise, heavy truck traffic and congestion when it approved the WC dump application.
It DEC requires a full environmental review, it may take years to complete. The WC dump should be closed now but under no circumstances should DEC allow the dump to remain open past July 22 when its permit expires.