Ongoing environmental concerns have brought a new round of attention to a Rensselaer dump.
Rensselaer Mayor Mike Stammel led a discussion Saturday at City Hall, addressing what are being called "twin trash threats:" the Dunn Landfill and the proposed Bio Hi-Tech trash processing facility.
Stammel, a Republican in his first term, says the dump has a far-reaching effect beyond city limits as pollutants are moving through East Greenbush and North Greenbush. "Obviously they have no plans of stopping what they're doing. When the city council approved and mayor signed the contract to allow that landfill to take place, we gave as a city our rights away. For anybody who thinks 'Well, Mike Stammel is gonna get elected and he's going to close that dump tomorrow,' that can't happen. I don't have the authority, nor will I ever have the authority to do that, because we gave our rights away to the DEC to the state of New York. So they're the ones that control our future when it comes to that landfill."
Stammel noted truck traffic is taking its toll on city infrastructure. He says it will be slowed for a time as the bridge at the bottom of Partition Street has weakened and will have to be replaced soon. The crowd gasped when Stammel shared some information he said he received from landfill officials. "They expect to continue dumping at least for another 13 years. That's a concern as well It's always going to be a concern. The only people who control this is the DEC. Originally when I spoke to the DEC and the Department of Health, The New York State Department of Health, which they're in business for, the Department of Health, which they're in business for, is to protect the residents of New York State. I had them working with myself and the environmental people from Rensselaer County and the Health Department to put air monitoring, not just on the school property, but throughout the city in different locations, so that we know exactly who's being affected by this and if there is some sort of long-term effect, first we'll know where it is and we'll know the areas that are affected."
Stammel says just as the air monitors were about to be installed, the state canceled the project. He joined residents in expressing concerns about air quality at the Rensselaer Central Schools bordering the dump.
East Greenbush Town Supervisor Jack Conway is a Democrat who says his constituents are dealing with odors and dust from the dump. "We're trying to find the voice that can reach far enough to solve this problem and we're having no luck doing it. It's time it's 2020 in America. It's time to put people before profit and time to put people before politics. And it's time for DEC to not be concerned of the power or the money that is behind something like Dunn landfill, and do their job."
Environmental Activist Tom Ellis read a few comments residents left on the ItStinks.org website during a period in the fall when particularly strong odors emanated from the dump. "October 25 11:23, extremely strong odor at the school. I saw a child gagging. DEC is corrupt. 9:07am on October 25. I ran by the landfill and now my nose is bleeding the odor was the worst I have ever experienced in my 40 years. And I'll read you another one here, from October 22nd. The smell is intensely thick and overwhelming. Not only does the entire block stink but my house with the windows closed also smells horrible. Then you walk into the school and realize the smell has also saturated that and the children have been breathing this area all day. Nothing about this is okay."
Video of Saturday’s meeting was sent to the DEC by WAMC. DEC Chief of Staff Sean Mahar responded: "DEC continues to provide strict oversight of all operations at the Dunn facility and has taken actions to minimize any impact on quality of life, including a recent consent order, issued last October. DEC conducts regular inspections of the facility to ensure public health and the environment are protected, and we remain committed to working with the community to address their concerns."
The agency adds in addition to its regular and off-hour inspections, the full-time on-site monitor, and air monitoring, the facility is required to cover construction and demolition waste daily. Recent violations of the daily cover requirement and odor violations at the facility are currently the subject of pending DEC enforcement.
Stammel notes the public comment period regarding the planned Bio Hi-Tech trash processing plant that would be located on the Hudson River waterfront closes Thursday. The 72,000-square foot facility off Riverside Avenue at the old BASF site would turn municipal waste into fuel.
A representative for the Dunn Landfill did not respond to a request for comment in time for broadcast.
- The Rensselaer Environmental Coalition, which is fighting these two projects, meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at the Ambulance Garage, 901 3rd Street, Rensselaer, at 6 p.m
- Saturday's meeting was live-streamed on Facebook by the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition.