Legislature backs larger landfill
County will ask state for approval to increase annual capacity
April 10, 2007

Star-Gazette (www.stargazette.com).
The Chemung County Legislature on Monday voted to move ahead with a controversial permit application to increase the capacity of the Chemung County landfill, despite protests from neighboring residents.

In a 13-2 vote, lawmakers agreed to ask the state Department of Environmental Conservation for permission to increase annual capacity from 120,000 tons of solid waste to 180,000 tons.

For months, residents who live near the landfill off state Route 17 in the town of Chemung have argued that the facility already causes a host of environmental problems, and that increasing capacity by 50 percent will only make things worse.

They have repeatedly asked the county and Casella Waste Management, the private firm that operates the landfill for the county, to do a full environmental review, something county officials say isn't necessary for this permit modification.

On Monday, some opponents tried a slightly different tact. In addition to citing concerns about traffic, noise and odor, some people pointed out that the expanding landfill could threaten historic sites -- namely Newtown Battlefield.

"You are doing a lousy job managing your resources, including historic sites. You don't have an appreciation of history," said Ray Ward of Waverly, a World War II veteran who said locating the landfill so close to the Revolutionary War battle site is tantamount to spitting on the graves of the soldiers who died there.

"We have a celebrated Revolutionary War site in Chemung," added resident Robin Stroman. "I don't see how you can continue this discussion seeing that the National Park Service recently gave Newtown Battlefield its highest ranking."

Others remained concerned that there hasn't been enough investigation of the impact the increase in landfill dumping would have on the environment.

"I strongly feel you folks are waltzing with the devil. We don't know what the outcome will be 50 or 100 years from now," said Tom Giles of Maple Valley Farms. "I do not feel we have enough information. Before we do anything, we need to look at the whole situation more objectively."

Despite those admonitions, county lawmakers voted to send the request on to the DEC for its review.

Legislators Terry McLaughlin, D-9th District, and Andy Patros, D-15th District, were the lone dissenters.

"Given the request will also mean an increase in traffic of four trucks per hour, and that a new interchange most likely will not be in place until 2010, I will vote no," said Patros, who said he will now ask that the county sheriff's department monitor traffic in that area more closely.

"I can't see why we're going so far beyond our own ability to get rid of our own garbage," McLaughlin said in casting his no vote.

But the county did not ignore the concerns of the residents who have opposed increasing the landfill's capacity, said Gale Wolfe, director of environmental services for the Chemung County Solid Waste District.

Every objection that was brought up was vigorously investigated, Wolfe said.

"The county has done due diligence in reviewing every concern the public has raised. We have looked at every aspect of the concerns. We brought in experts in the field," said Wolfe, who said the DEC has told the county that the landfill is not located over or connected to the Chemung River aquifer.

"(Residents) keep making claims that we are going to hurt the Chesapeake Basin. DEC says we are not channeled into the aquifer," Wolfe said. "I am very impressed with Casella and their environmental ethics. I feel real good that they are there watching our environment."

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