The Dunn Landfill in Rensselaer faces new state mandates as concern builds over odors and air quality.
This week, with the landfill in its crosshairs, the Rensselaer County Legislature unanimously passed a measure urging the New York State Department of Health to monitor air quality in the City of Rensselaer.
Republican County Legislature Chairman Michael Stammel is also running for city mayor in November. "It doesn't do us any good just to monitor the school because kids are only there 8 hours a day. Now, if they go home, you know they're stuck with that air quality for another 16 hours a day and the residents deserve the same sort of attention that the students at school do."
Neighbors have long complained about stench and dust emanating from the landfill. The state is now requiring it to place a barrier between the site and the nearby Rensselaer city school, as well as improve the collection of gas and cover waste daily. "The DEC wanted a place to put construction debris and once they finally found a place to put it, they don't want to let go of it. I mean, we could have resolved a lot of these problems in the beginning, probably, they don't want to let go of it. If the city would have done the appropriate thing and did an EIS, environmental impact study, to see what effects it would have had on the school, the community, the air quality, the trucks, all that stuff, and the city chose not to do that."
Earlier this year, Stammel asked the New York State Department of Health to work with the County Health Department to find 30 to 60 locations in the city suitable for placement of air monitoring devices.
That request was eventually denied. DOH referred WAMC to the Department of Environmental Conservation for comment.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement Thursday that the agency's top priority is protecting those in the area from exposure to any potential health or safety hazards from operations at Dunn.
DEC's Chief of Staff Sean Mahar hails the new requirements as another step in the ongoing oversight of the landfill. "They had made a number of voluntary actions over the past year to improve their operation, and after some of those weren't adhered to, we started a department-initiated modification of the permit to codify those operating procedures that they voluntarily conducted. This gives us stronger oversight enforcement capabilities when they aren't adhering to these requirements that are now in their permit and it's just another ratcheting down of our oversight of this facility."
Dunn officials did not return a request for comment in time for broadcast.
Stammell says he'll continue to advocate for city residents. "I definitely wanna see the school board and the common council come up with a resolution supporting what the county has done. Obviously, with a vote that was unanimous by both sides, people throughout the county don't understand why this is such a big deal. It's only the people in the city that are getting the money from this Dunn dump that want to protect their best interests and don't really care very much about the residents."
Mahar says a hotline to report odors has been created to field community complaints: 518-292-0449.