by Tom Ellis
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) illegally granted the town of Colonie permits on April 5 to vastly enlarge its landfill located near Route 9 on the bank of the Mohawk River. The Saratoga County towns of Waterford and Halfmoon have filed lawsuits challenging DEC’s ruling.
With the new permits, the dump, which sits atop an unlined hazardous waste dump, parts of which are within 100 feet of the river, would be allowed to remain open for perhaps twenty more years. Toxic effluents are leaking from the dump into the river. Waterford Supervisor, John Lawler, has described placing 12 million additional tons atop it is like pressing down hard on a wet sponge.
Residents in Waterford and Halfmoon who live near the dump have experienced a considerable worsening of odors in the past two years, and a lack of help from dump operators and DEC. Some residents are concerned about possible odor health impacts.
Halfmoon and Waterford residents, elected officials, and attorneys are angry that when DEC issued the new dump permits, it rejected their requests first made in September 2016 for DEC to hold formal adjudicatory hearings on the landfill application. Both towns assert they have far more than met the legal threshold for these trial-like hearings at which dump proponents and opponents each submit expert testimony and cross-examine each other under oath with a stenographer recording it all. An adjudicatory hearing would last several days at least, be open to the public and the press, generate public discussion, and let people see how DEC operates. Dump expansion opponents could identify omissions and errors in the landfill application, setting the stage for legal challenges.
Government is supposed to be accountable to us. We have a right to see how DEC operates. In rejecting adjudicatory hearings, DEC also rejected transparency, instead choosing an opaque decision making process. DEC’s evading the adjudicatory process is a key component of the towns’ legal action. Who in DEC made the decision remains a mystery.
DEC reasoned that allowing a large dump expansion over many years will allow Colonie more time to develop alternatives for solid waste management, is typical DEC nonsense. Colonie has already had decades to do this and done little or nothing. Granting many extra years of landfill operations will allow Colonie more time to not change anything. DEC has allowed both Albany and Colonie many landfill expansions. Colonie, like Albany, allows people to dispose vast amounts of re-cycleables and re-usables with their disposables. Many people do not use recycling bins. Shutting the landfill would likely force Colonie to quickly establish much better solid waste practices like other forward looking municipalities around the world. The dislocated landfill workers could remain employed managing solid waste in sustainable and healthy ways.
Published in June-July 2018 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter