Q: What are the primary environmental impacts of the proposed changes to Landfill operations?
A: RFPLC is mostly concerned about the effects that expansion will have on traffic, air quality and groundwater, as well as having quality of life concerns.
Q: How will the Landfill transfer affect traffic?
A: Opening the Landfill to out-of-county wastes has already increased truck traffic in the area and changed traffic patterns. RFPLC expects that the traffic generated by the planned expansion will be even worse.
To make money hauling municipal solid waste long distances for disposal, shippers send large volumes at a time, using large semi-trailers and 18-wheelers. RFPLC is concerned about the threat posed to the community (including the Elmira and Horseheads areas in Chemung County, and the Waverly area in Tioga County, NY) by these larger diesel-powered trucks. Daily traffic assessment by RFPLC members in the vicinity of the Landfill over the last several weeks since Casella took over show as many as 119 such trucks entering the Landfill in a single day - far more than the 30 or so trucks per day Casella predicted for the current 120,000 tons of waste per year in their bid document, and significantly more than the 70 or so trucks they predicted at an operating level of 280,000 tons per year. By this proportion, the actual truck traffic totals that can be expected at an operating level of 280,000 tons per year amount to 277 trucks per day at the Chemung Landfill.
Q: Beyond the possible nuisance of a larger number of trucks headed to the Landfill causing traffic jams on County Route 60 or State Route 17 (I-86), are there other impacts from the traffic?
Diesel trucks create significant air emissions, including fine particular matter which can be very dangerous. According to the Clean Air Task Force, based on EPA data from 1999, Chemung County was in the top 20% of the dirtiest counties in the nation with respect to diesel soot and its citizens had an average lifetime diesel soot cancer risk of 1 in 4,411. That is 227 times greater than the EPA's acceptable cancer level of one in one million. Adding more traffic to this area can only make this problem worse.
This additional traffic also raises concerns about safety on our roads. In 1999, the NYS DEC, DOT, and State Police carried out a 3-day enforcement effort during which on-the-road inspections of 1,000 waste haulers resulted in 765 violations being cited. The violations included unsafe brakes, overweight loads, and drivers having no license or suspended licenses, among many other infractions. A true 'Environmental Assessment' would have considered worst case scenarios in an effort to honestly mitigate the negative impacts of this potentially treacherous traffic.
Q: Why would the Landfill expansion create groundwater contamination issues?
The Landfill as currently constructed may already be contaminating groundwater in the area. The 2003 Annual Report on the Landfill submitted by the County to the DEC shows that, while Chemung County was publicly claiming no groundwater contamination existed at the Landfill, several groundwater monitoring wells showed contamination. Several of the older cells are unlined and even the newest cells lack state-of-the art dual composite liner systems. RFPLC is concerned that these unlined cells, located just a few hundred yards from the Chemung River and close to the Chemung Valley Aquifer, may be a potential source of contamination for the nearly 500 residents in the surrounding area who rely on private wells for drinking water.
Q: Won't all of these concerns be addressed by DEC when it issues permits for the expansions and as it monitors and inspects the Landfill's operations?
A: No. Many of these issues, such as the air impacts of trucks traveling to the Landfill, are not part of the permitting considerations for the Landfill expansion itself. Even if DEC considers these issues in its SEQRA review, the County has already agreed to support the initial expansions. Its position is set, regardless of the environmental impacts that a subsequent SEQRA review may uncover. In addition, Casella and NEWSNY are likely to argue the second increase, which would raise disposal rates from 280,000 tons per year to 417,000 tons per year, is a 'minor permit modification' since it increases disposal rates by only about 49%. If the DEC accepts this argument, SEQRA review may be waived.
Enforcement has also been an issue at this site in the past. The County has a history of violating its permits by failing to contain leachate break-outs, apply adequate cover to the site or contain litter. As noted above, the County's own documents indicate possible groundwater contamination. In an e-mail obtained by RFPLC in a Freedom of Information Law request, DEC's Region 8 staff admitted that they are 'years behind in reviewing monitoring and other reports due to understaffing'.
Q: What are RFPLC's Historic Concerns?
A. The Landfill is situated in the Sullivan-Clinton Revolutionary War Historic Corridor, directly behind Riverside Cemetery, final resting place of eleven veterans of that war. Also contained in the community are several homes eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Homes.
Numerous State historical markers and plaques announce the important events that took place here in the early days of our State and Nation's history. American Indians lived and farmed the land in and around the landfill vicinity many hundreds of years ago, making the site one of particular aboriginal significance.
The County did not perform an accurate Environmental Assessment of how the decision to lease the landfill would impact the character of this historic community and future efforts to develop the area's economic viability through its tourism potential. Instead, Fagan Engineers, the firm which prepared the Environmental Assessment Form for the County, claimed that there were absolutely no items of cultural or historic significance in the area to be concerned about.
Casella held a public meeting and announced the presence of a chemical in the testing well at the landfill that was in exceedance of DEC standards...