Done with the Dunn Dump

by Tom Ellis

ALBANY, NY: David Ellis of Rensselaer Residents Against Toxic Dumping and Lou Sebesta of Stop Trucks Assaulting Rensselaer (STAR) spoke at the May 15th SPB dinner about “Done with Dunn Landfill: Negative Impacts of Dunn C/D Dump Operations” in Rensselaer, and their efforts to close it. Later in the evening, George Keleshian of Zeroenergy Buildings, Inc., finished the presentation he did not have enough time to complete at the April SPB dinner.

Before they spoke, Lynne Jackson discussed the Pyramid Corporation’s proposal to construct 222 residential units on about twenty acres in Guilderland just off of Western Avenue on Rapp Road. She said no environmental impact statement has been produced, the town industrial development authority has not granted taxpayer supplied subsidies, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission (APBPC) may not oppose the project if Pyramid provides eight separate acres it owns to the Pine Bush Preserve, the Albany County Planning Board has recommended against the project, and SPB is organizing to block it but “It will be a big fight.”

Lynne thanked Grace Nichols for working successfully to have the Albany County Legislature enact the Pollinator-Friendly county Resolution two days earlier. Lynne provided an update about Cynthia Pooler’s documentary film about the life and work of Rezsin Adams. Lynne said “We must tell the Save the Pine Bush story so people know they can fight city hall and win.”

Using a PowerPoint, Dave led off. He said up to 100 trucks per weekday enter and exit the dump which borders the city of Renserlaer, the Rensselaer public school, an East Greenbush neighborhood, and a cemetery. The dump, he said, blows stench into the school and the neighborhoods.

Gravel mining commenced at the site in 1830, the city annexed the property in 2007, the school opened in 2008, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) approved the landfill application in 2012 despite considerable local opposition.

David said Rensselaer County Legislature Chairman Mike Stammel has said we do not know what is in the shredded materials allowed into the dump and the environmental impact statement did not address the interference the dump would have with other Rensselaer city projects.

David said DEC approved a five-year dump permit renewal in 2017 without holding hearings. This year waste has frequently blown off the dump property. David photographed a bio-hazard bag. Trucks begin driving through downtown Rensselaer just after 6:30 am. The permit, he said, expires in 2022, and the permit ignores the close proximity of the dump to the school.

Among the many hazards are hydrogen sulfide and other odors, a widely visible and growing ugly dump, blowing trash, diesel pollution, dust and debris from trucks, and noise. Dump odors, he said, are now being logged via emails on a Rensselaer County government website (DunnDump@rensco), while another site––will soon be activated.

David said sheet-rock breaks (become friable) when dumped He showed graphic photos of dense dust clouds from the dump onto the school property taken by a teacher through her classroom window. He said no one knows what is in the dust. Students (children) play outside even on windy, dusty days. David said the Rensselaer school district superintendent recently announced a new high wind protocol: students will remain indoors on windy days.

David said the Times Union has often reported about the dump, the dump is visible from I-90 the dump is being rapidly increased in size, the waste blows into the cemetery and often gets caught in a net designed to block it.

Lou Sebesta, who lives along the truck route, showed videos and photos of truck convoys coming up and down the Partition Street hill that crests in front of his house. Truck traffic begins on winter days before sunrise. He said a truck census he conducted a few weeks earlier showed eleven inbound trucks drove past his house between 6:41 and 6:44 a.m., trucks have up to seven axles and shake the foundations of houses.

Lou said that in all three truck censuses he has conducted (one each spring in 2017, 2018, and 2019), the majority of trucks leaving the dump were uncovered. He showed photos of children waiting for school buses on street corners while the trucks pass by. The noise of the trucks, he said, “is deafening at street level.” A school bus stop at Sixth and Partition Streets is especially dangerous, he said.

The dump owners, he said, are raking in millions of dollars annually, DEC fines are small or tiny, a “cost of doing business, a slap on the wrist, no deterrent.” Each of the three census counted between eighty and ninety-nine trucks going each way. (Full disclosure: I worked with Lou and others on all three dump census.)

Lou described ongoing and upcoming activities. He said Rensselaer residents filed Freedom of Information Requests (FOIA) in March seeking data on how much money the city and school each receive from the dump owners. He said (1) he and his colleagues work with former EPA regional director Judith Enck; (2) met with David Carpenter, a public health physician and Director of UAlbany’s Institute for Health and the Environment; (3) the community groups meet on the fourth Thursday of each month; (4) Mike Stammel will hold a public news conference on June 8; (5) he (Lou) desires a “meaningful” noise survey; and (6 )city residents hope to soon meet with the new NYS Attorney General.

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George Keleshian spoke about his own business after thanking Lou Ismay for his tremendous success cultivating leaders among many SUNYA students, himself included. He mentioned how SUNYA students sued Tobin Packing Co. Lou Ismay said federal law forbids polluting a harbor, and both students won sufficient money to finance their graduate educations.

George said his business includes among its employees, engineers, architects, energy consultants, and alternative and renewable energy manufacturers. He said they are “the best in the world.”

Among the buildings he has built (George showed slides and provided many details) are the 17,000 square foot Halfmoon Town Hall, a 5200 square foot Agway building in Syracuse, a zero energy building in Pennsylvania, and houses constructed for $43 per square foot. He is now building the first zero energy restaurant in the United States.

George insisted that before any one installs solar panels on a building, it is vital to reduce the kilowatt hours and BTU used in the building so as to not install unnecessary equipment. Energy payback times are now 4-5 years for commercial buildings and less than six years for residential structures. Georges said placing white reflective roofs on buildings can reduce energy needs by more than 1/4.

He said “we must get away from old dinosaur technologies: nuclear, oil, coal, fracking,” and the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) should be split into two parts: one for the old technologies, the other for the new ones. He urged listeners to not drink bottled water from soft plastic bottles; hard plastic and stainless steel are much safer. Concluding his short presentation, he excitedly said great new technologies are being developed practically every month.


Published in June/July 2019
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