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Dunn Landfill Concerns Continue in Rensselaer

The entrace to the Dunn facility off Partition Street Ext.
Lucas Willard / WAMC
The entrace to the Dunn facility off Partition Street Extension in Rensselaer, NY.

Concerns continue to swirl around the Dunn Landfill's proximity to the Rensselaer Central Schools. With the start of the new school year, officials are updating residents about the city's relationship with the landfill operator.

Since the S.A. Dunn Landfill opened in 2015 on the site of a former sand and gravel mine bordering Rensselaer City schools, there have been concerns about student health and safety. Now, officials from the Rensselaer City School District, City of Rensselaer, and Rensselaer County have sent a letter to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. It says: "We believe that our students and community members need to know, without a doubt, what is in the air we are breathing."

  • Scroll to the bottom of this post to read the letter.

Officials noted that although a soon to be constructed berm may shield students from visible and audible distractions, "it may not provide sufficient protection concerning air quality."
Rensselaer Mayor Rich Mooney:   "Superintendent Kardash reached out to me, asking if I'd be willing to work with him on this letter, to ask for further testing, whether it be the New York State DEC, the Department of Health or Department of Labor, and we just feel it's the right thing to do."

Mooney and the others are calling on landfill management to engage in an "exchange of information" with health officials and safety experts toward "designing comprehensive air quality management strategy."  "Well I don't think anybody wants or likes having the landfill where it is. They are good neighbors, they're trying their best to work with all of the residents involved. They're willing to work with us and help the school and help the city. They're trying to be good neighbors. It's a business that is in the city we have to deal with."

The renewed call to action appears to involve word that the landfill is "preparing to construct cells" closer to the school.

DEC Spokesman Sean Mahar:  "When the applicant had first submitted their permit that identified all the areas of the former mine that they were going to use for construction and demolition debris disposal, they had not informed us that they intend to use any of the additional cells that are not currently in use. As soon as we receive any information that they plan to expand into those areas we'll be sure to let the community know."

Landfill Manager Jeff Burrier, in an email to WAMC, says "The construction of disposal cells occur as the mining of sand progresses and follows the permitted sequence within our facility boundary. It is permitted to start in the south, progress to the north on the western portion of the facility and then progress south along the eastern boundary."

Again, Mahar:   "On our website, people can see the details of the ongoing air monitoring that we're currently doing around the school and the community, which has shown that hydrogen sulfide levels around the area are within background limits of what you'd expect to see in an area, but obviously we want to make sure that the air in the school is safe and we take this letter very seriously, and are working directly with the Department of Health to design a scientific study to reconfirm all those developments."

Burrier notes Dunn is confident its site does not represent a health risk to neighbors; he promises cooperation should it be determined that additional air sampling is necessary:

An update to an earlier story about the financial relationship between the district and the landfill: On August 13th,  Rensselaer Central School District Superintendent Joseph Kardash posted a new message on the district's website.  Read it HERE.

RennsCo Letter to DEC on Scribd

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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