Albany Pine Bush Nature Cache: Participation Encourages Public Land Stewardship

by Tom Ellis

For more than 10 years, the city of Albany has attempted to site a large regional solid waste landfill in the town of Coeymans. The dump would be located about a mile south of where the Berkshire Spur section of the New York State Thruway connects to I-87.

Trash would come from Albany, Cohoes, Berne, Bethleham, Guilderland, Knox, New Scotland, Westerlo, Watervliet, Rensselaer, Altamont, Rensselaerville, Green Island and elsewhere.

Among the reasons Coeymans residents oppose the project are concerns about noise, odors, truck traffic, visual impacts, reduction in property values, and that a new dump might be open for many decades and enlarged several times with wastes arriving from a huge area including possibly New York City.

Additional concerns are the huge varieties and quantities of toxic materials that would end up in the dump, and lost future economic growth. A dump would emit toxic gases and aerosolized carcinogens, and would almost certainly increase health problems for humans and animals who inhabit the area. The dump would pollute groundwater and nearly streams and leak poisons into the Hudson River.

State courts have decreed that the city must obtain a landfill permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation before it can purchase the land, but the city has yet to submit a draft environmental impact statement with DEC.

It is well known that the chosen site is very wet; last year a consultant hired by the city reported that the section of the property where the dump would be located contains more than 100 acres of wetlands.

The city already operates a dump in Albany just west of the Thruway-Northway interchange. Albany obtains more than $12 million a year in revenues from dumpers. This landfill is also badly sited, located in an ecologically sensitive pine barrens, home of the endangered Karner Blue butterfly that used to live where the dump is now located.

Solving solid waste problems is not easy. Residents of Coeymans have blocked the city’s plans for a decade and will continue trying to do so. Albany selected a bad site and has wasted 10 years and $4 million. The Coeymans site is unworkable and Albany should abandon it.

Printed in August/September 2005 Newsletter