Landfills in the news and related
solid waste policy news
SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY LANDFILL CLOSER TO APPROVAL
An Administrative Law Judge has issued a ruling on the proposed Oneida-Herkimer
Solid Waste Management Authority regional landfill in Ava, NY
recommending that the landfill be permitted. The ruling is subject to
comment and reply by the parties, including a coalition of opponents
comprised of four nearby municipalities, a citizens group and three
veterans groups. A decision of the Commissioner of the DEC is expected
in August. However, an adverse decision from another DEC agency may play
a part in the outcome.
On June 3, the DEC's Freshwater
Wetlands Appeal Board
ruled that DEC Staff had acted arbitrarily in
denying a request by opponents to have wetlands surrounding the proposed
landfill site reclassified. The wetlands, home to the American Bittern,
a vulnerable bird species in New York State, are presently classified as
Type II. The Board's ruling, requiring the DEC to consider
reclassification to Type I will mean, among other things, the
Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority will have a new burden to show an
economic need for another 1,000-ton-per-day landfill in New York.
That should be difficult, as New York's commercial landfills have
consistently left well in excess of one million tons of permitted
landfill space unused every year since at least April 6, 1999, when the
New York Daily News
reported, "At [New York City's]
request, state Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill last
month identified millions of tons of excess capacity at 25 of the
state's 41 disposal sites." Over 28 million tons, to be exact. Since
Cahill spoke, that amount has risen steadily: as of the end of last year
the DEC reported the top 25 landfills have over 52 million tons of
permitted landfill space. The state's ten incinerators have almost as
The DEC's waste disposal capacity data are posted on our archive site
MANAGEMENT OF NY LANDFILL PROPOSAL IN ALBION APPROVED BY DEC BUT
REJECTED BY HOST COMMUNITY
On February 10, DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty approved permits for Waste
Management's proposed new regional landfill in Albion
, within 500
feet of the banks of the Erie Canal in Orleans Co. However, in May the
Albion Town Board denied local permits to the company, rejecting a host
community benefit deal worth as much as one million dollars each year.
Then on June 9, a local environmental group teamed up with the
state-wide organization Citizens' Environmental Coalition to file suit
seeking to annul the DEC decision
. On June 18, Waste Management and
the lessor of the landfill site (also the site of an abandoned hazardous
waste landfill) sued the town.
Commissioner's Crotty's decision is being challenged on two grounds.
First, a May, 2000 Interim Decision rejected the ALJ's recommendation
that Waste Management's fitness to hold permits without further
conditions be adjudicated. This eliminated the group Stop Polluting
Orleans County as a party, as fitness was their only issue.
Then-Commissioner Cahill justified this decision in important part
because two DEC environmental monitors were provided in the draft
permit. Crotty's final decision threw out the monitors, saying Waste
Management could hire its own, and this brought CEC in, joining with
SPOC to challenge both decisions as an unwarranted change in policy. The
DEC's own union has also opposed the monitor policy change
was not requested by either Waste Management or the reviewing DEC Staff.
A hearing is scheduled in Albany for July 25.
GROUNDS FOR EXPANDING NEW YORK'S LANDFILL CAPACITY
The DEC's review of the Ava and Albion applications makes it clear that
landfills in New York are not being sited in areas that can comply with
the minimum siting requirements contemplated by DEC's own regulations.
The Ava landfill proposal cannot be permitted without granting a
variance from the requirement that there be a minimum separation of five
feet between the base of the constructed liner system and the seasonal
high groundwater level. Part 360-2.13(d). The Ava proposal also requires
a variance from the prohibition on constructing a landfill in a
DEC-regulated wetland. Part 360-1.7(a)(2)(iv). (Over 14 acres of
state-regulated and over 46 acres of federally-regulated wetland would
be destroyed.) The Albion landfill proposal cannot be permitted without
granting a variance from the requirement that unconsolidated deposits
beneath the landfill be 20 feet or greater in thickness as measured from
the base of the constructed liner. Part 360-2.12(a)(1)(v) and (vi).
Variances in both cases are being justified by the project sponsor on
the grounds that without them, the cost of construction would be
prohibitive. DEC Staff agree with this rationale in both instances.
MANAGEMENT'S CHAFFEE LANDFILL STRUGGLES WITH CLEAN AIR ACT REQUIREMENTS
modification of Waste Management's Chaffee Landfill
(Erie Co.) Title
V air permit is being recommended by the DEC, to allow the landfill to
avoid becoming a major source of carbon monoxide when a new gas
collection system comes on line. CO emissions from the landfill's
gas flare would be capped at 240 tons per year, just below the 250-ton
major source threshold. But whether such a limitation is practically
enforceable is in question, since landfill gas flow cannot be turned
down like the valve on a fuel supply line. Update: EPA
orders DEC to revise Title V permit
landfill is fighting a citizen suit
in federal court alleging that
the new system was supposed to be on line at least nine months earlier,
and those with homes adjacent to landfill have been forced to live
elsewhere to avoid sickness from chronic exposure to landfill gas. The
same citizens have also petitioned the EPA to reopen the landfill's
existing Title V permit for failure to undergo New Source Review for a
Comments on the modification of Chaffee Landfill's air permit must be
submitted in writing to the DEC no later than July 18, 2003.
LANDFILL WITHDRAWS RENEWAL PERMIT APPLICATION
Al Turi Landfill in Goshen, NY (Orange Co.), was fighting two citizen
groups and the DEC, all of whom wanted to close the landfill now that
its current Part 360 permit has expired. Last fall an issues conference
was held at which the opponents proposed the issues of fitness and
whether the landfill could as a practical matter be considered "open,"
considering it was taking in little more than 50 tons of waste per month
just to keep its renewal application alive. Now Al Turi has withdrawn
the application and begun final capping at the landfill, but there
remain issues. One is whether corrective measures to address leaking
arsenic found in monitoring wells will be adequate to keep the landfill
from polluting the adjacent Wallkill River. Another is whether the EPA
will re-open the landfill's Title V air permit, since Citizens
Who Care petitioned the EPA to look into whether the landfill
circumvented the Clean Air Act
by omitting emissions from an on site
gas to energy plant that burns its landfill gas.
Sixty percent of the 5.6 million tons of sewer sludge disposed of in
the U.S. is processed, relabeled "biosolids" and applied to land,
according to industry figures. As reported here at our last Update in
January, effective March 10, 2003, the DEC adopted changes to Part 360,
Part 364, and Part 621 regulations regarding land
spreading of sewage sludge
, characterized as the recycling of
organic waste through composting and other means. The changes are
intended in part to make state regulations consistent with federal rules.
Federal regulations allow sewage sludge to be disposed in landfills or
incinerators without regard to concentrations of dioxins. 66 FR 66228
(December 21, 2001). Heavy metal concentrations, pathogen content and
frequency of application are regulated for land application of sludge.
40 CFR Part 503. Cf. 68 FR 17379, 17382 (April 9, 2003). The EPA is
scheduled to take final action on whether to limit concentrations of
dioxins for sludge applied to land by October 17, 2003. 68 FR at 17382.
This proposed action is currently subject to public comment. <http://www.epa.gov/edocket
(Docket ID No. OW-2003-0006).
EPA's action is being taken in response to recommendations from the
National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, and the
Clean Water Act which mandates that EPA look at all available data on
the environmental and health impacts of sludge. Earlier this year, NRC
found more research is needed to "reduce persistent uncertainty about
the potential for adverse human health effects from exposure to
biosolids." 68 FR at 17383.
As NRC found, there may be little proof that when applied properly,
spreading sludge on land is harmful. However, whether as a practical
matter it will be applied safely is another question. Last month a jury
awarded $550,000 in damages to a dairy farmer who showed hay grown in
land fertilized with municipal sewage sludge caused his cattle to die
) In January, Earthjustice
filed suit to stop two Florida companies
from over applying sludge
on open fields making nearby residents sick. Local governments in most
states retain the power to ban land application of sludge. Community
Environmental Legal Defense Fund has provided a model local ordinance
to do so.
In contrast to the U.S., under its 1986 Sewage
, to be revised later this year, the E.U. regulates
the concentration of metals in the soils to which sludge is applied.
Holland banned land application of sewage sludge in 1991 and, as of May
1, 2003, Switzerland
banned the practice
where fodder crops and vegetables are grown.
IN THE NEWS
Casella recently lost its argument against the Town of Bethlehem, New
Hampshire, adopted everywhere by the waste industry, that state
regulation of landfills preempts more stringent local regulations unless
the regulations because local regulation is inconsistent with state law.
This argument fails, according to a New Hampshire court, because more
stringent local regulations cannot logically be "inconsistent" with a
state law whose purpose is to protect the environment. (Littleton
, 4/16/2003). As a result, Casella's landfill is not
allowed to expand and must close.
A proposed expansion of up to 656,000 tons to be disposed over five
years at Casella's Farmington, New Hampshire 12-acre landfill could
bring the town up to $6.5 million in revenue over the next five years,
but the town is balking because the proposal would turn a local dump
into a regional dump and because Casella's record has the Farmington
Town Board worried. (Foster's Daily Democrat
Poor management in past years has pushed the McKean County Solid Waste
Authority to put its Mt. Jewett, Pa. landfill up for sale. Last fall the
SWA had to raise tipping fees from $30 to $86 per ton, and successfully
sought a restraining order against communities in its district that
began sending their waste to Casella's transfer station in Cattaraugus
County, NY, just over the state line, and from there to Casella's Hyland
in neighboring Allegany County. The county has a local flow
control ordinance requiring all county-generated waste be disposed at
Mt. Jewett. Now Casella has emerged as one of two bidders who survived
seven companies initially responding to the SWA's request for proposals.
[Olean, NY], 7/1/2003). If successful,
Casella's bid will give it a near-monopoly on the region's waste stream. Where that
has happened in New England
, waste management costs to
municipalities contracting with Casella doubled.
--Gary Abraham, CCCC
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