Updates on the trash problems in Rensselaer

by Chris Kielb and Tom Ellis

Rensselaer and East Greenbush residents and their allies (Rensselaer Environmental Coalition, REC) continue to organize to block the proposed Bio HiTech municipal solid waste processing facility on the former BASF industrial site, south of Columbia Turnpike. The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) sent now-departed Rensselaer Mayor Moody a memo late last year detailing the faulty methods the city used in fast-tracking their approval of the proposed BioHiTech plant and urging them to consider a full environmental review. The applicant proposes to truck in 150,000 tons of municipal solid waste each year to the banks of the Hudson River, separate, dry and shred the paper and plastic in underground pits, and have a different fleet of trucks transport this material to a cement plant in Pennsylvania to be burned.

This month the applicant, Rensselaer Resource Recovery LTD, re-applied to DEC for a permit. There are many reasons to reject this application: 1) the proposed site is a capped toxic brownfield site, and the project will likely involve piercing this cap to create underground storage areas for the garbage, possibly releasing toxic chemicals into the air and groundwater; 2) this site is located next to the Hudson River, and so it is vulnerable to flooding, which could contaminate the river and land; 3) this project adds to the already unacceptable truck traffic in the city from the Dunn Construction & Demolition Landfill, with up to 225 truck trips on weekdays and 175 on Saturdays predicted. This will add to diesel pollution and noise, both public health hazards; 4) this site is located near an Environmental Justice community; 5) this project is based on outdated ideas on how to handle waste. Instead of being recycled, paper and plastic waste is set to be dried and trucked to an incinerator, which is the most expensive and most environmentally destructive way of dealing with such waste. Because this project has the potential to pollute the Hudson River, please consider commenting to DEC by the January 30 (or later) deadline at: https://www.dec.ny.gov/enb/20200115_reg4.html#438140008400001.

REC also continues working to close the Dunn construction and demolition debris dump located right next to the Rensselaer public school campus and close to many Rensselaer and East Greenbush neighborhoods. We recently found out that dumping will soon begin in a new cell built even closer to the school, which is unacceptable.

Rensselaer residents are tracking activities at the dump and have photographed the dump debris not being covered each day as required by permit. They have notified DEC of this. Drones are also being used to document the proximity of the school to the dump. In December, Rensselaer residents, accompanied by incoming mayor Mike Stammel, who dressed as Santa, presented a lump of coal to Dunn dump operators. This event was covered on local TV. Dump neighbors continue to report noise and odor complaints on ItStinks.org. These complaints include odor complaints inside and outside of the public elementary school.

A rally will be held January 25 at Rensselaer City Hall, 62 Washington St, Rensselaer at noon to alert people to the new cell at the Dunn dump and to the soon-to-expire public comment period for Bio HiTech. Dr. David Carpenter, local officials and others will speak at this event.

Assemblyman John McDonald and state Senator Neil Breslin have not as yet called for dump closure.

Published in February/March 2020
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