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Community Discussion Over Troubled Dunn Landfill In Rensselaer Continues

East Greenbush Town Hall Meeting, September 29, 2021
Town of East Greenbush Screenshot
East Greenbush Town Hall Meeting, September 29, 2021

Community discussion is continuing over a troubled landfill in Rensselaer. More public concerns were aired Wednesday night at an East Greenbush town hall session.

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, with complaints of foul odors at the schools and heavy truck traffic through neighborhoods along the route to the site. Next door, East Greenbush officials noted that while some residents are affected by the landfill, the town has no jurisdiction, but offered the meeting as a learning opportunity in the interest of expanding public awareness.

State Assemblyman John McDonald represents Rensselaer. The Democrat says his office received its first complaint about Dunn in 2017.

"I was personally involved in dozens of meetings with local officials, state officials and residents. I've also been directly involved in fielding and following up a complaint mostly based on odors, but many based on dust and traffic concerns as well. Since the complaints started, I believe that DEC has been responsive to the concerns expressed by residents. Senator Breslin and I have both conveyed every complaint that we've received to DEC. Based on conversations with local officials at the city level, as well as some residents, the odor issues have improved dramatically for the better for the residents, since DEC has required the operators to install an elaborate and costly gas extraction system at their own expense. But still, I recognize that there is much more that needs to be done when it comes to the quality of life issues. Not only for those living the city of Rensselaer but also in the adjacent communities such as East Greenbush."

McDonald noted the public and bi-partisan local government support calling for Dunn's closure and for the current permit not to be renewed when it expires in June 2022.

"It's a very strong statement coming from the community leaders, especially as closing the landfill will produce up to a $1 million revenue hole in the city budget, which is 14% of their budget. To me that reinforces the concerns raised by the residents," said McDonald.

Dunn officials have always maintained that the site does not represent a health risk to neighbors. A call to the company was not immediately returned.

Rensselaer's Republican Mayor Mike Stammel also is chairman of the Republican-controlled county legislature:

"I'm also concerned about the runoff that comes out of that dump, whether it goes into our creeks that flows in the Hudson River, or it goes through their filtration or drainage system that's pulled out of here with five tankers a day, that we won't accept at the Rensselaer sewer facility, but yet they'll take it over to Albany and it doesn't go through any filtering process, they just dump it directly into the Hudson River, something that we all should be concerned about. And something that's unacceptable as well. So there's not much that I'm going to say to you today that hasn't been said in the past. But I do urge everybody and anybody who is concerned about this dump, the way it is now or the way it may be in the future. Because we don't know what the effects of this stuff will have on our children, on our communities, on their health in the future. And that's a big concern to me," said Stammel.

One after another, public commenters echoed those sentiments. At the conclusion of the meeting, they agreed to "keep fighting" to close the landfill. DEC Regional Director Anthony Luisi says the agency has not yet received an application to renew the Dunn Landfill’s existing Part 360 Solid Waste Management Facility permit.

"Should the company seek to renew the permit, a timely and sufficient application must be submitted by this coming January. DEC will continue to closely oversee the operations at the facility, including daily monitoring and regular inspections to ensure public health and the environment are fully protected. And we remain committed to working with the local community to address all of their concerns."

Luisi says DEC subjects all permit applications to a transparent and rigorous review process that encourages public input at every available step.

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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