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DEC Minimizes Concern Over New Dunn Dump PFAS Report

Composite Image by Dave Lucas

After traces of PFAS chemicals were found in water samples taken near the Dunn Landfill in Rensselaer, activists are stepping up their campaign to convince the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to close the landfill.

Environmental activists staged a demonstration outside the dump this past weekend after a report found leachate is leeching off of the landfill into three local water bodies that empty into the Hudson River.

Test samples from the Quackenderry Creek, a small stream that empties into the Hudson and another small stream that runs next to the Rensselaer School showed high levels of PFAS.

David Ellis with the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition says the findings heighten what has already been perceived as a serious environmental threat affecting the health and well-being of students and city residents.   "We're extremely concerned about it, especially now that children are remaining home from school through the COVID-19. And people already are dealing with the older problems on a daily basis."

Kyla Bennett from PEER - Public Employees For Environmental Responsibility - says the group tested for 36 different PFAS chemicals.     " And we found 11 different PFAS at three different sites in tributaries to the Hudson, immediately adjacent to the Dunn Landfill. What we want to know is where is this coming from? A construction and demolition landfill if truly accepting only construction and demolition materials, should not have PFAS. But we have seen photos of what looked like rolled up carpets and things like baby car seats, both known to contain PFAS in the landfill, they should not be accepting this material. The fact that we found this many PFA in the creeks adjacent to the landfill, indicates that there must be significantly more PFAS in the actual leachate. The liquid that seeps out of the landfill after precipitation together with liquid from natural decomposition of stuff in the landfill."

Bennet argues the leachate from the three waterbodies is collected and trucked to the Albany County wastewater treatment plant, which doesn’t filter out PFAS, and discharged into the Hudson River, which is a drinking water source for many people.

Sean Mahar is Chief of Staff for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.   "DEC requires the Dunn facility to conduct comprehensive groundwater and surface water monitoring quarterly. And all data collected has shown no impacts to water quality caused by this facility, and there are no threats to any drinking water sources. Instead of fear mongering, DEC is focused on using science and validated monitoring data to inform our decisions and aggressive oversight of this facility to ensure area residents are not at risk."

Former EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, a regular WAMC Roundtable panelist, says activists have a simple request:     "The New York Department of Environmental Conservation test the leachate from the Dunn Landfill for PFAS.  Make sure that the landfill is not accepting waste that contains PFAS, such as carpet and children's car seats, which we've actually seen. Third, the DEC needs to test the effluent, or the water that's leaving the sewage treatment plant in Albany County, and going into the Hudson. And then finally, and most importantly, we're requesting that the DEC take enforcement action against the landfill and consider closing it once and for all. "

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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