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Dr. Mary Bassett resigns as New York state health commissioner

Rensselaer Environmental Coalition, local leaders continue to press DEC over Dunn Dump

 Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel
Dave Lucas
/
WAMC
Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel

Activists and elected officials are stepping up efforts to convince the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to shut down the Dunn Landfill in Rensselaer.

Classes at the Rensselaer City School District campus begin September 6th, and concerns are reemerging about the health and welfare of the K through 12 students when they return.

For the past seven years, residents of Rensselaer and surrounding communities have been fighting for the closure of the landfill, citing what they say are its many negative impacts: noise, diesel exhaust, hydrogen sulfide odors, truck traffic, proximity to the school campus and residential neighborhoods. Activists say the DEC failed to recognize those impacts during its original permitting process in 2012.

The landfill’s operating permit expired on July 19th.

In early May the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition sent a 10-page analysis of the original permit process to DEC, detailing the inadequacies the group preceived in the original permit review process. Coalition member Bob Welton says the coalition has not received any response.

"You're here at the school, you see the landfill right there," said Welton. "Right, it's less than 500 feet from the from the school building on the soccer field is less than 200 feet from the landfill. And the baseball field on the other side is also less than 200 feet from the landfill. So this should be these documents should make a teachable moment for the Department of Environmental Conservation. They need to protect the public, and they need to make that their first priority rather than the business interests.”

Coalition attorney Colleen Pierson says the original permitting process was flawed.

“Dunn used a 1992 traffic study on like gravel trucks to support their application," said Pierson. "They had 96 public comments against the landfill. And they gave short, dismissive answers that DEC just took as gospel.”

Pierson says DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos has not responded to a letter detailing the presence of PFAS at the dump.

Responding to a request for comment, DEC emailed a statement which says in part:

“DEC is committed to a transparent and thorough review of all environmental permit applications, including Dunn’s current permit renewal applications, in order to ensure the protection of public health and the environment. On June 23, 2022, in a letter addressed to counsel for the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition, as well as to additional involved stakeholders, DEC acknowledged receipt of REC’s May 2, 2022 correspondence and provided clarification on the permit review process. “

DEC adds it has responded to previous “concerns raised in letters received from the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition and other groups.”

Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel, a Republican, and East Greenbush Town Supervisor Jack Conway, a Democrat, say they are united in opposition to the landfill.

“I'm trying to better the economic development of this city, Stammel said. "And the first thing developers are telling me well, what are you going to do about the trucks? You know, that's a concern for me. I got people wanting to build houses, high end houses, you know, we are a city that's impacted financially. So I want to turn that around a little bit.”

Conway said “There is no politics here. OK. The mayor and I come from different parties. You couldn't slip a sheet of paper between our shoulders, we're so close together on this issue... We know about PCBs, we know about PFAS. We know this stuff. The science is clear. This is not a partisan issue. It's not a political issue. This is 100% an issue of morality.”

Dunn Landfill did not reply to a request for comment.

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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