by Tom Ellis
New Yorkers live in an environmental health Twilight Zone. Governor Hochul and the state legislature are seeking election or reelection this fall, encouraging voters to approve a $4.2 billion environmental bond act, while quietly facilitating continued operations in Rensselaer of the largest construction and demolition debris dump in the state, and that borders a 1100 student-staff school.
Many people think it insane to operate a dump next to a school. The NYS Legislature has not enacted legislation to forbid such activity, nor has the governor urged it.
When the state approved the original dump permit in 2012, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) committed regulatory malpractice. DEC accepted as fact the applicant’s statement that the dump would not be proximate to the then-brand new Rensselaer public school. Dumping began early in 2015.
Despite US Representative Paul Tonko signing a petition in 2019 calling for the immediate and permanent closure of the dump, no elected state government official has called for dump closure.
Dump owner, Texas-based Waste Connections, held a June 14 meeting at the Rensselaer school at which Rensselaer and East Greenbush residents, Rensselaer County legislators, and Rensselaer city councilmen demanded closure. One county legislator was nearly in tears saying his pets got cancer from the dump. Many others described in detail how the dump has an enormous negative impact on health and quality of life.
Shortly thereafter, dump owners mailed a two-page color flyer to Rensselaer residents. In it, Dunn promised to “always live up to our responsibility in continuing a positive, fact-based dialogue” and asserted “Our operations are not contributing to any contamination in the surrounding environment.” I will pay $1000 to anyone who can prove Dunn’s operations are not contaminating the surrounding environment.
Dunn has had plenty of time to clean up its act and become the good neighbor it claims to be. Dunn apparently cannot or will not resolve, let alone acknowledge, the many hazards and abuses it imposes on its neighbors.
The dump’s permit expired on July 19 but dumping continues. Governor Hochul should instruct the DEC and state health department commissioners to close the dump because it is an ongoing nuisance and menace to public health.