Riverkeeper Joins Neighbors To Fight Landfill Expansion

Oct 25, 2017

A plan to expand a landfill in Albany County used by several Capital Region communities is facing opposition from neighbors. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports two Saratoga County municipalities and an environmental organization are speaking out.

Rising above the Mohawk River, the Colonie landfill is running out of space.

The Town of Colonie, along with operator Capital Region Landfills, Inc., is seeking permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to expand the landfill by 132 acres.

But neighboring communities think the plan stinks.

Waterford town supervisor Jack Lawler spoke at a press conference beside the river on Tuesday.

“This is a matter of protecting the ecology that we have, safeguarding this beautiful river that we’re all next to right here, and making sure that generations to come will be able to come out of Lock 6, enjoy this beautiful scenery without being exposed to 12 million tons of new garbage to their immediate left, towering an additional 100 feet above the mountain of garbage that’s already there,” said Lawler.

Lawler takes issue with specifics in the proposal to expand the landfill. He says if additional trash is piled on top of what’s already there, it could lead to contaminants getting into the river.

“So our question was: what is the plan to deal with that? And there was no plan to deal with that. It’s not even remotely addressed in the application.”

Waterford and neighboring Halfmoon, which share views of the towering landfill, have undertaken their own engineering efforts. They’re pressuring DEC to reject Colonie’s request for a renewal of its operating permit.

Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen believes there are alternatives to expanding the landfill. Besides bringing the trash to a new location, he suggested technology could be employed to reduce volume by converting waste to energy.

“We believe that this is the time for this landfill to close. And we ask DEC  to do the right thing here and do the right decisions,” said Tollisen.

Local officials and residents have requested a hearing to present their concerns to a judge.

Environmental organization Riverkeeper is joining Waterford and Halfmoon in building the case.

Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain John Lipscomb recently took samples from the Mohawk near the landfill site. The goal is to test for unregulated so-called “emerging contaminants.”

“The EPA has a list of regulated contaminants. Most of the contaminants that we use, most of the chemicals we use in our daily lives are not regulated,” said Lipscomb. “By sampling for that suite of additional products, we are complementing the work that’s being done by the communities.”

DEC does have monitoring equipment at the landfill site, for both storm water outfalls and underground wells. But the opponents want to see additional checks on potential contamination.

Halfmoon resident and engineer-by-trade George Harris believes there are outfalls that are not being monitored by the state.

“We’ve documented three outfalls that flow directly from the landfill into the Mohawk River. Those are not part of the environmental monitoring program for the old landfill and they’re not part of the new landfill,” said Harris.

DEC said in a statement it is “currently reviewing the permit application and will make a decision when its review is complete.” The agency added in an email that it “requires routine sampling of groundwater wells both upgradient and downgradient of the landfill for compounds typically found in landfill leachate. DEC will review any additional sampling data collected by other entities as part of our ongoing monitoring.” 

DEC has collected comments from the public over the last several months.

Colonie town supervisor Paula Mahan says she welcomes comments from those concerned.

“We’re very open to any suggestions that DEC may have. If other adjoining communities have suggestions and ideas we always welcome that,” said Mahan.