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Environmentalists raise concerns about Dunn Landfill truck route

Opponents of the S.A. Dunn Landfill brought their concerns before the Rensselaer Common Council Wednesday night.

There have been ongoing health and safety concerns since the dump opened in 2015 near Rensselaer City schools, with neighbors complaining of foul odors, air pollution and noisy truck traffic. Calls to shut down the landfill continue. Tom Ellis with the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition prepared to amplify that call before councilors.

"I'm going to urge the city council to use its police powers to close the SA Dunn construction and demolition debris dump that's at the east end of Partition Street and right next to the Rensselaer public school campus," said Ellis. "I believe that the report that the city engineer produced six months ago, is a smoking gun, although I don't like to use that word, that term. But it contains enough information that the city could use it to close the dump without even DEC's help."

The city engineer did not respond to a request for comment.

Ellis addressed the council during a public comment session, calling attention to the volume of truck traffic through the city, the stress heavy rigs may be putting on the infrastructure and what critics perceive as truck drivers violating traffic laws as they go to and from the dump, as well as pedestrian safety concerns.

"Near the Dunkin’ Donuts that even though the trucks are making a left turn, they frequently pull into the right lane of traffic before they make that left turn,” Ellis said.

The coalition's Bob Welton pointed out that convoys usually enter the city early in the morning.

"All trucks come across the Veteran's Crossing Bridge on Broadway," said Welton. "They often stop at the red light before making a turn onto Partition Street. And this results in enormous dead weight on the bridge. This of course does not include the regular traffic at that time in the morning."

Welton claimed that in 2022 about 14,000 trucks went to and from the landfill saying the trucks weighed in total over three-quarter of a billion tons.

Dunn Landfill did not respond to a request for comment.

Welton says the New York State Department of Transportation last inspected that bridge in September 2021 and gave it a "fair" rating. The agency did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Ellis was among those who handed council members a written report on what they discovered. They requested an immediate inspection of the bridge.

“I didn't get any sense that anything was going to happen right away," Ellis said. "Several of them, thanked us for speaking tonight, which is more than we usually get. So that's positive. And one of the council members at the end, he looked through that report that Bob Welton gave about the bridge. And he noted that it's in poor condition in some places. So maybe the city will look at that more seriously.”

After the meeting wrapped up, I asked Common Council President John DeFrancesco what happens next.

"Actually, it's in the DEC's hands," said DeFrancesco. "I'm going to check with the DOT, about the bridge inspection. We have the police force that has scales and does do regular inspections of trucks. So that's already being done. And that's really what their concerns were. And we're just waiting for the DEC to come up with their answer on what way it's going."

The state Department of Environmental Conservation responded to a request for comment via email: "Infrastructure and traffic safety is under purview of local municipality. Partition Street is a municipal public highway, not a state public highway."

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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