Concerns Mount In Rensselaer Over Dunn Dump Pollution

May 16, 2019

The director of the University at Albany's Institute for Health and the Environment is calling for closer testing and monitoring at a dump in Rensselaer.

Environmentalists have had the Dunn Mine & Landfill on their radar for some time. At the invitation of residential neighbors, UAlbany's David Carpenter recently toured the vicinity of the Dunn site and wasn't happy with what he experienced: noise, dust, air pollution and stench.   "This is a huge landfill. It abuts the Rensselaer School, everything from kindergarten through the high school. It's a huge pit, it used to be a gravel pit, it opened up as a landfill four years ago, it takes construction and demolition waste, not municipal garbage. And I first thought that should be less of a problem, it shouldn't stink as badly as garbage does. But in fact the neighbors complain bitterly about the smell. It's a rotten egg smell. If you think about it, a lot what they have is wallboard and things like that and when it's wet it's certainly going to release sulfur compounds that cause odor. The other big issue is the huge trucks that go up these narrow residential streets. They line up at about 6:30 in the morning because the landfill opens at 7, and I was there on literally narrow streets not ever made for large trucks with heavy weight loads spewing out diesel exhaust, making a lot of noise, disturbing people early in the morning."

Carpenter says the debris is ground up as its unloaded off the trucks, which blankets the area with dust. He'd like to see that heavy truck traffic re-directed.  A woman who answered the phone at the Dunn site said no one at the dump could comment.

In early April, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced new enforcement actions against SA Dunn & Company, the dump’s operator, directing them to hydroseed sand piles at the facility to ensure dust is contained on site. The dump had already been ordered to address odors and improve operations. Again, UAlbany’s Carpenter:   "I cannot believe the DEC approved an industrial landfill in the middle of a suburban area, especially literally abutting the school. It's just not safe. Ideally, what I'd like to see done is the landfill moved out of the residential area, somewhere out in the country."

DEC spokesperson Erica Ringewald:   "DEC issued permits for this facility based on science and data and only after determining that all regulatory standards, public notice requirements and environmental quality review processes were satisified. Once permanent, we do everything within our power to ensure solid waste management facilities like Dunn operate safely, legally, and with minimum local impact. We take our responsibility seriously, to ensure landfills are not affecting the surrounding neighborhood's quality of life. DEC is responsive to community concerns, we strictly monitor operations and our enforcement is holding this facility accountable for any violations we find."

In August 2018, the dump operators were required to pay a $100,000 penalty to address dust and mining violations. A $225,000 payment was also made to the state’s Environmental Benefit Projects Fund for neighborhood improvements.

Rensselaer Mayor Richard Mooney declined to comment.