rural New York watchdogs on waste
Ava landfill proposal
reprinted from AMSTERDAM RECORDER (NY), August 13, 2000:
Landfill hearing packed
MARCY (AP) - A crowd of about 500 people from rural northern Oneida County, many of them service veterans, jammed a college auditorium Thursday night for a public hearing on a plan to develop a landfill they don't want.
So many showed up that two closed-circuit television monitors were set up outside 240-seat Kunsela Hall at SUNY Institute of Technology so everyone could see the proceedings.
And nobody who commented to Edward Buhrmaster, an administrative law judge from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, minced words. From State Assemblyman David Townsend to Vietnam veteran Bob Willson, the message was the same: Dump the dump.
"Who in their right mind would put a landfill there in such a pristine, environmentally sensitive area?" Townsend asked to a standing ovation, one of many during the evening session. "If the site is so good, so great, why are environmental waivers being sought?"
At issue is a permit needed by the Oneida County Waste Authority from the DEC to develop the landfill, which would handle trash from Oneida and Herkimer counties. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also was present to review testimony.
The landfill would be built in the town of Ava, about 45 miles northeast of Syracuse in a sparsely populated area of cornfields, hayfields, woodlands and dairy farms. And it would be right next to Veterans Memorial Forest, 798 acres of reforested land that was dedicated in 1953 to service veterans by a nearby Veterans of Foreign Wars post.
"If this landfill in this place does not offend our cultural values, then our cultural values are broken indeed," said Michael Gerrard, an attorney representing the town of Ava.
The dump would be able to accept up to 220,000 tons of trash each year and would be 800 feet from the edge of the veterans' forest. It is projected to rise some 125 feet in the air before it reaches capacity over six decades. That's twice as high as the trees in the forest, critics said.
One of the biggest concerns voiced at the evening session was the prospect of a dramatic increase in truck traffic in the area, which receives more than 220 inches of snow a year. More than 120 trucks a day would travel to and from the dump, which would be located on State Route 294, a hilly, seven-mile, two-lane highway with virtually no shoulder for disabled vehicles.
With buses from four area schools making 50 trips a day down the highway, Ian Klingbail, an emergency medical technician and fire department captain, was so concerned about a possible truck-school bus accident that he showed a series of slides of the roadway in a summer setting to paint a telling picture.
"Imagine that in whiteout conditions," Klingbail said. "My concern is not only with the condition of the route, but also with the distance we are from a major hospital. It takes at least an hour to make the trip, and we can only transport a maximum of eight people at a time with minor injuries, and
only four with major injuries."
Perhaps the biggest indictment of the permit process was delivered by Oneida County Legislator Pamela Mandryck, who apologized to residents in an emotional address.
"Environmental justice has not been achieved," said Mandryck, who once represented Ava but was redistricted out after the landfill was first proposed in 1991. "I believe the site was selected because of the limited education of the residents, their financial background, and their
insignificant political value. They were an easy target."
Maybe not so easy.
"They've been caught in all their lies," 71-year-old Lois Mathis said during a break. "Who do they think we are, a bunch of dummies just because we live in Ava?"
Anti-dump sentiment was so strong that landfill opposition leaders had hoped for a 1,000-vehicle caravan to descend upon the two hearings conducted Thursday. Although turnout was impressive, the massive caravan never happened.