ALBANY: The NYS Deparment of Environmental Conservation held the one and only hearing on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed landfill expansion of the City of Albany’s Rapp Road landfill in the Pine Bush on December 3, 2008. The room was nearly packed, with over 300 people attending. Of course, making sure that everything was democratically run on an equal playing field, the DEC official who chaired the meeting asked the public officials present to speak first, and gave them no time limit. Members of the public were allowed speak afterwards, and were limited to five minutes to speak about this complex topic, with a written application of over 5,000 pages.
Albany City Mayor Jerry Jennings flashed in to give his speech, and made sure he left before he needed to listen to any of the citizens. The high points of his speech included how this $41 million expansion will handle six-and-a-half years of waste disposal, that the City will work on updating the SWMP – Solid Waste Management Plan (last updated in the 1980s) and that the gas from the landfill will be captured. Mayor Jennings emphasized that the expansion proposal includes a plan to restore the 250 acres of landfill to Pine Bush ecosystem; he said this would be the largest single investment ever in the Pine Bush.
Steven Apfelbaum, of Applied Ecological Services Inc., spoke about the fabulous restoration of 250 acres of the Pine Bush included in the expansion proposal. Wetlands and streams, the former trailer park and different habitat types will be restored [editor’s note: no mention was made of the amount of money Mr. Apfelbaum’s company would make if they conduct the restoration].
Colonie Town Supervisor, Paula Mahon, spoke about her concerns about the affect of this expansion on the residents in the Village of Colonie and of the implications for people’s health.
Village of Colonie Mayor Frank Leak noted that this was the first meeting about the landfill that Mayor Jennings had attended [editor’s note: Mayor Jennings was long gone at this point]. Mayor Leak emphasized that is was his municipality that is most affected by this proposed expansion. His office receives dozens of calls from residents complaining of the odor and said that the City does not care about the little Village of Colonie. He said if you sit a garbage can in the sun for a few days, think of the smell. Now multiply that by a hundred times and that is what residents of the Village live with. Many people clapped in support when Mayor Leak described all of the time, effort, and money from State, Town, and Federal governments that it took to improve Cook Park, and now this beautiful, loved park is afflicted by the smell from the landfill.
The Honorable Dominick Calsolaro, who represents the First Ward in the City of Albany spoke passionately about his opposition to the proposed landfill expansion. He supports creating a resource recovery park, where organic materials are removed from the waste stream, usable items are reused, and the remaining items are recycled. Instead of spending $42 million on expanding the landfill in the Pine Bush, the City can construct a green resource recovery park. Mr. Calsolaro noted that the City is using the same old excuses to expand this landfill as they have used with all the past expansions.
The Honorable Michael O’Brien, Common Council member representing the 12th Ward of the City of Albany explained the history of landfills and how the City is between a rock and a hard place.
Chris Hawver, Executive Director of the Pine Bush Preserve Commission noted that expanding the landfill will impact the Discovery Center because of the visual impact, noise, and odors.
Peter Henner, Save the Pine Bush attorney, denounced the proposed expansion. He asked that the time period to submit written comments be extended, because DEC experts had more than a year to review this huge application, and Save the Pine Bush only had a few weeks. He mentioned the issue that it is illegal to site a landfill over an aquifer, the situation we have here. And he closed by noting we only have one Pine Bush.
Many members of the public spoke and gave excellent comments on the proposed expansion. Because of the time limit, people often could not finish their comments. And, of course, people with jobs and family obligations could not stay late. DEC was successful in limiting comments by the public of the proposed expansion. Much more public discussion of this dump expansion and management of solid waste is needed, but, unfortunately, the public is unlikely to get any.
Published in the Jan/Feb 2009 Newletter