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New York State DEC taking public comments on future of Rensselaer’s Dunn Landfill

Opponents of the S.A. Dunn Landfill gathered for a news conference outside the Rensselaer County Courthouse, May 17, 2023.
Dave Lucas
Opponents of the S.A. Dunn Landfill gathered for a news conference outside the Rensselaer County Courthouse, May 17, 2023.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is holding two in-person sessions today on the embattled Dunn Landfill in Rensselaer.

Since the landfill opened in 2015 next to Rensselaer City schools, there have been persistent health and safety concerns. Neighbors complain about bad odors, air pollution, and noisy truck traffic. Bob Welton with the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition says the two community meetings will help determine the future of the dump.

"There is no remote participation," said Welton. "In other words, you can't go on YouTube or Facebook or whatever, or Zoom to watch it. So you have to be there. So that's the only way you can participate. But you can send in written comments until August 28. And there are special emails for that."

DEC Regional Director Tony Luisi says the agency is committed to conducting a transparent permit review process that addresses state and local concerns about the Dunn Landfill.

"We encourage anyone from the community who is interested to attend and participate at this hearing on August 8th in the auditorium of the Rensselaer city schools. DEC will fully consider all comments received before making any decision on these applications," Luisi said.

Former Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith Enck says the city has been impacted by the landfill for nearly a decade.

"It is the state's largest construction and demolition debris landfill, located directly next to a large public school in the middle of a city," said Enck. "And every morning, up to 100 diesel trucks come barreling through the city of Rensselaer, often passing school kids waiting for the bus. And then they dump all kinds of construction debris into a giant hole, which we have documented, results in some PFAS pollution. And there are odor issues and also it's uphill from the Hudson River. So you've got to have some concern about the long term impacts on what the Hudson River will be along with the short term impacts of children attending the school or near nearby residents.”

Welton says his group has made a herculean effort to get people to attend the meetings. "We're really, really pushing to get people involved to write the letters to email, to be at the meeting, to speak up. We're trying to pack the auditorium at the school. We're just doing everything we can," said Welton.

Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel, a Republican, is also urging residents to attend the public forums. "Which one will be today at 2 o'clock at the Rensselaer high school and another one at 6 p.m. at the Rensselaer High School. Your remarks are that you have are very positive to either closing the dump down or keeping the dump open. If that's what you choose to do," Stammel said. "I would prefer more people show up to want this dump to be closed. The DEC is taking comments. These comments are very important to the process of knowing what the public concerns are, and how it affects their daily lives. Whether it be the traffic that comes off the bridge, whether it be the streets themselves and these trucks, making it difficult for people to drive, whether it be the smell of the dump, the hazardous material that may be in this construction debris that is being dumped at the Dunn dump. These things are all important and DEC has to know from the public that this dump is important to their quality of life."

Enck notes that both the Dunn Landfill and the Norlite plant in Cohoes continue to operate with expired permits. She's hopeful the Hochul Administration will not renew them for new 10-year terms.

"If you and I had our inspection expire on our on our cars we wouldn't be able to keep driving it but DEC says the law allows for these expired permits to enable facilities even ones causing major pollution to continue," said Enck " think the DEC has an obligation to change the law if they think their hands are tied here. And the bottom line is that it's people living near or going to school next to the Dunn landfill are the ones that are suffering the most and they've suffered enough. DEC should not renew these permits."

Landfill owner S.A. Dunn & Company, LLC had no 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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