© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rensselaer Seeking State Help In Closing Landfill

The entrace to the Dunn facility off Partition Street Ext.
Lucas Willard
The entrace to the Dunn facility off Partition Street Ext.

Environmental advocates plan to rally tonight in Rensselaer as city officials consider legislation that would call on the state to close a landfill that has been the subject of complaints from the community for years.

The SA Dunn Landfill takes construction debris from several states. The dump, towering beside the Rensselaer City School District playing fields, has been the subject of complaints related to dust, odors, and truck traffic for years.

Tonight, the Rensselaer common council will consider a measure supported by Mayor Mike Stammel that would urge the state Department of Environmental Conservation to not renew the landfill’s operating permit in July 2022.

Stammel, a Republican seeking re-election who also serves on the county legislature, spoke with WAMC.

“We need to have some things in place in order for the DEC to consider whether or not they want this landfill to stay in existence. And we’re hoping with the resolution from the city council — obviously I’ve always supported it on the legislator level with all the Rensselaer County legislators as well — to shut this dump down,” said Stammel. “That’s what we want to do. I want to put a padlock on the gate. We don’t want that truck traffic any longer.”

Neighboring East Greenbush has also passed legislation asking the state to close the landfill.

Ahead of tonight’s meeting, members of the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition plan to rally outside city hall.

Bob Welton, an East Greenbush town resident, is treasurer of the group.

“Waste Connections, that owns the landfill, they pass out a lot of money throughout the community and you know they say it’s because they’re good neighbors, but really, they’re not good neighbors. This is a real threat to the health of the people,” said Welton.

In February of 2020, a week before a packed question and answer session at the high school organized by the state Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation, SA Dunn & Company Division Landfill Manager Jeff Burrier distributed a letter to neighbors.

The letter touted the “positive economic impact we have on Rensselaer’s economy.” The letter detailed jobs supported by the landfill, tax payments to the city, and an agreement to provide $125,000 annually to the Rennselaer City School District.

The dump’s operators last year also agreed to build a berm to reduce visibility of the landfill from the school.  

The DEC also stepped in to require the operators of the landfill to address several concerns from community members.

DEC Chief of Staff Sean Mahar spoke to WAMC at the Q and A session in February 2020.

“We have a fulltime onsite monitor that we require the facility to have, that’s a third-party, independent monitor. We have regular DEC staff and officials that monitor and oversee this facility on a routine basis. We have air monitoring equipment around the landfill and here at the school. We also have dust and particulate matter monitoring here at the school, as well. So we have a really comprehensive understanding of how this facility is behaving. And anytime we find a violation, we’ve come down very hard on this facility, and you’ve seen us continually ratchet down that enforcement,” said Mahar.

In a statement to WAMC Wednesday, DEC said it “remains committed to a transparent permit review process that includes and informs the Rensselaer community every step of the way.”

The Rensselaer Environmental Coalition plans to rally tonight at 5:45. Doors to city hall open at 6:15.

DEC's statement to WAMC Wednesday reads: 

"The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) maintains strict regulatory oversight of the Dunn Landfill to protect public health and the environment and will continue to take action in response to community concerns to hold the facility accountable for any violations or impacts on quality of life. DEC and a full-time on-site monitor closely oversee and regularly inspect all facility operations to ensure full compliance with rules and regulations governing the facility. DEC also remains committed to a transparent permit review process that includes and informs the Rensselaer community every step of the way."

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
Related Content