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Calls To Close The Dunn Landfill In Rensselaer Intensify

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

Concerned citizens, environmental groups and elected officials are ramping up the campaign to close a dump in the city of Rensselaer, New York.

Heavy truck traffic. Unbearable stench in the air. Sick children.

Activists say they’ll take another swipe at the Dunn Landfill this Saturday at the Rensselaer Public Library. Their message is simple: it’s time to close the dump.  Tom Ellis is a member of the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition.   "Who's invited are people who live in Rensselaer and East Greenbush and anybody else who wants to attend. So we have specifically invited some parents who have been in touch with us saying that they're children are getting sick or that they themselves are getting sick. And they will be speaking."

City resident Heather Trentacosta is a mother of eight.   "I think it's urgent that we all speak out against having a landfill so close to our children and their school, not just for the kids, but for the staff, the teachers, for the local residents who are being affected by the noxious smell, the dangerous gases that are coming from the landfill. And in addition to that, just the impact that the traffic is causing on our local roads that ultimately we're paying for, regardless of any contribution that the landfill owners are providing for the school or the community. It does not offset the cost to our families, whether it be health, financial or educational, because we're all losing and we're all done with Dunn."

Ellis says the Hudson River city is facing a public health emergency.  "Many people are getting sick and suffering horribly from these dump odors, and the odors permeate the school from time to time. Our group has begun a online thing called 'it stinks,' where people can report odors. We did that because DEC isn't serious about taking odor complaints."

DEC Chief of Staff Sean Mahar tells WAMC the agency is closely monitoring the situation and that there has been an ongoing exchange of correspondence with elected officials and the city.   "Overall, I mean, we remain committed to making sure that this facility is operating in accordance with the laws and regulations of the state. And our goal is to make sure that it is not impacting the residents or the students of the area. And we continue to have a very aggressive outreach and oversight effort underway. We have folks out there daily monitoring the facility to make sure they're compliant. And anytime they're not we're coming down hard, and we are definitely growing weary of the continued issues with regard to this facility. And that's why you see the continued ratcheting down of our enforcement on them."

Dunn Landfill owners did not immediately return a call for comment. The public meeting is Saturday at noon at the Rensselaer Public Library at 676 East Street.

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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