by Christine Kielb
Each weekday, from 6:30 am to 4:00 pm, up to 100 large tractor trailer trucks (18-26 wheelers) arrive off the Dunn MemoriaI Bridge onto Broadway Street in the City of Rensselaer. These trucks travel north on Broadway, turn east onto Partition Street and proceed up and down its steep hills through residential neighborhoods to a Construction and Demolition (C&D) landfill situated at the top of the hill to the east of the city. These trucks come from several states in addition to NYS, including Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
Many residents wake at 6:30 each morning to the loud roar of these trucks, and throughout the day they endure the noise, vibration, dust and diesel pollution that come with them. These trucks are so big, heavy, noisy and numerous that they ruin the quality of life for the residents on Broadway and Partition Streets and adversely affect local business. The trucks also cause traffic congestion, with residents driving to and from work often stuck behind them. They also pass by schoolchildren waiting for the bus, a potential public safety issue. This constant truck traffic is also out of character with the future vision for the city that includes developing the waterfront.
A truck census conducted on Partition Street in June 2017 counted a total of 99 18-26 wheeled trucks going to and from the landfill. It found that many trucks coming back from the dump were uncovered, and a few were not totally covered going in. This is a violation of the DEC permit. Additionally, records indicate that the landfill has taken in household waste, and asbestos was found at the landfill, both violations of the permit.
This problem began in 2012 when the Department of Environmental Conservation approved a plan to allow the operation of a C&D landfill on a hill to the east of the city to fill in the cavities created by a gravel mining operation. This approval was granted despite an inadequate noise survey by the DEC. Most of the residences affected by noise from the trucks are on lower Partition Street, where the trucks strain to go up hills with their heavy loads and where the empty trucks bang and rattle on the return trip from the landfill. Despite this, most sampling took place in the areas close to the landfill where few residents live. Additionally, the DEC air study looked only at dust, with no testing or estimation of diesel pollution from these trucks. Furthermore, public input was not taken into consideration, with the DEC responding to each comment that 1) this route has traditionally been a corridor for mining and other operations and 2) the nature of the truck traffic is not expected to change. Previously, smaller tri-axle trucks used to haul gravel from the mine passed through these neighborhoods, whereas the new traffic consists of large tractor trailer trucks. At up to 100 trucks per day, each making a return trip, the neighborhood is burdened with up to 200 truck trips per day, up to 1000 trips per week and up to 52,000 trips per year.
When questioned about this by a local environmentalist at the Green Energy Expo held at Doane Stuart School in Rensselaer last fall, the mayor, Dan Dwyer, replied that no one has complained. It appears the mayor is in denial. Residents issued comments at the time of the proposal going public and have since attended numerous city council meetings to voice their dissatisfaction with the situation.
City Hall defends this activity by asserting that it brings in money to the city, but it does not acknowledge the cost in repairs to the city streets and other infrastructure for the damage done by these trucks. The $1,000,000 per year that The city gets in fees from this landfill operation is dwarfed by the many millions made annually by Waste Connections, a Texas outfit who bought the facility in 2014. This landfill operation, larger than the Colonie and Albany landfills combined, is anticipated to continue for many years, possibly until 2036.
The primary goal of affected residents is to lobby for an alternate route for the trucks. Another group is focused on closing the landfill, which threatens a nearby public school, is next to a cemetery, and is probably polluting the nearby Quackenderry Creek.
To date, residents have done the following. 1) Conducted a truck census as described above, 2) circulated a petition in the neighborhood that has been signed by over 40 residents (work on that continues), 3) met with the local Sierra Club executive committee to present information on the problem. The SC recommended obtaining documents from the DEC, 4) met in November with Assemblyman McDonald and Senator Breslin. Among our list of asks were for DEC documents to be obtained, including the permit, any inspections and any citations for violations. A joint meeting with the representatives, the DEC, the DOT and the mayor was also requested. To date we have not heard back except to be informed that the DEC does not consider the affected neighborhoods to constitute an environmental justice community.
A Facebook group was recently created: Stop Trucks Assaulting Rensselaer (STAR). The mission of this group is to raise awareness and generate opposition to the landfill truck traffic passing through Rensselaer’s residential and small business neighborhoods. Posted on this page are pictures and videos of the truck traffic, including a video of a truck passing by as school children wait for their morning bus. All interested parties are encouraged to join, comment and post on this page.
Future plans for fighting this landfill and its associated truck traffic include following up with the state representatives, another meeting with the Sierra Club, and possibly consulting a lawyer.
Happily this issue is being covered in an in depth investigative article authored by Brian Nearing of the Times Union. Brian has interviewed residents and has acquired documents containing information about how the landfill was planned for as well as details about its operation. The article is appearing in the March 25th Sunday edition of the TU. Brian has offered to share the documents he has obtained with residents. A link to his article will appear on the Facebook page: “Stop Trucks Assaulting Rensselaer (STAR)”.